COVID Update: Omicron

Fera Gunawan Times News

“Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you.
Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid” (John 14:27).

The pandemic has been a significant challenge for schools, our communities, and the world. Jesus promised His followers that we do not need to be afraid. As Christians, we have a hope that is real and everlasting. The omicron variant of COVID-19 is concerning, but we are committed to continuing to follow ministry guidelines and mandates for COVID safety pertaining to K-12 education. In the midst of uncertainty, we have the opportunity to serve the world and love others well.
Viruses are combinations of genetic code and proteins. Every time a virus replicates, errors in its genetic code create opportunities for changes in the proteins of the virus. These changes in structure and function change the ability of a virus to infect new cells and to escape our immune system’s defenses.
In the case of the omicron variant, there are several mutations that increase both its ability to infect new hosts and to evade our immune system. Our immune system protects us by recognizing invaders and responding with antibodies to immobilize, inactivate, and mark those invaders for destruction. New research suggests that the changes in omicron may reduce the effectiveness of existing vaccines. Thankfully, immunization still provides significant protection against severe illness, especially after a third dose (booster shot).

The World Health Organization has indicated that omicron is spreading at a higher rate than previous variants. The omicron variant is substantially more contagious and will likely lead to another wave of COVID-19 infections. Even with a smaller proportion of people developing severe symptoms, higher infection rates may lead to an increase in hospitalizations and a serious strain on our healthcare system. Adherence to the guidelines protects our community.
According to the BC CDC, vaccination is the most effective tool to reduce the risk of COVID-19 and to protect broader public health, in combination with properly wearing masks, increasing airflow (eg. ventilation and HEPA filters), washing hands, and maintaining physical distance. As we connect with family and friends over the Christmas holidays, limiting in-person social gatherings (specifically indoors) means we can return to school more safely in January. Health authorities are strongly encouraging everyone eligible to be vaccinated to do so as quickly as possible. Canadians have some of the highest vaccination rates in the world. In BC, children 5 and up are now eligible, and anyone already double vaccinated can register for a booster shot.
At John Knox, we invested in HEPA filtration systems for every classroom and many common spaces K-12. Filters will be updated during the Christmas break to ensure that they are operating at maximum efficiency in the months to come. N95, KN95, and disposable surgical masks are the most effective at filtering small particles, followed by comfortable, well-fitted, multiple layered, non-woven materials (ASTM level 3).
Most importantly, the biggest asset in our community is the people. Our school administrators and staff have worked hard to effectively implement government mandates while providing the best quality learning, discipleship, and connection with our students. Our students and families have diligently followed the mask mandate and health measures. Thus far, John Knox has experienced uncommon success, relative to other schools in our district.
Our diverse community has navigated the challenges of the pandemic by being united in Christ. Let us not grow weary in doing good. The love of Jesus makes a difference in how we treat others and face hardship. Be at peace. Love others well.
Thank you for helping keep each other safe.
Adam Wasik, Secondary School Principal

Adam Wasik completed a Bachelor of Sciences degree at UBC and majored in Biology before earning his Bachelor of Education degree and a Masters degree in Educational Leadership and Administration.