COVID Causes Substitute Shortage


Amelie Salum Rapetti

The holidays restored a much needed sense of normalcy by reuniting people with their families; however, for many, this holiday season was bittersweet due to COVID isolations. It was easier to forget social distancing procedures in the midst of all the parties, food, and gifts. 

From August to December, Florida experienced a decreasing trend in COVID cases across all age groups. The start of December marked a spike in new cases that has yet to stop climbing. A factor that undoubtedly played a role in this surge are holiday festivities and mass gatherings. The total number of new cases for the week of December 31 – January 7 is 397,114; the total number of cases for the week before that was 297,888. Moreover, these numbers are most likely not  100% accurate since there are many cases where COVID infected individuals are unaware of their positivity, or do not have access to testing that confirms their suspicions. 

blue line = # of weekly cases –— purple block = cumulative people vaccinated

On a positive note, the total number of individuals vaccinated in Florida is increasing. There are many sites offering free COVID vaccines and boosters for those eligible. However, not all students and staff have been vaccinated, thus, contagion is inevitable.

Mr.Bicknell, one of West Boca’s assistant principals, is especially feeling the fallout from the mass COVID isolation after the holiday. Staff and students are calling out sick every day, and the matter is complicated by the lengthy isolation periods required. “When one teacher is out, it affects 90 kids”; scheduling subs and rooms for classes whose teachers have COVID proves to be a new struggle each day. In fact, January 14 Mr.Bicknell had 38 classes to cover after he had already assigned all of the available substitute teachers. 

Moreover, COVID isolations are anything but easy. The number of quarantine days required are murky, and getting an appointment for a negative COVID test is nearly impossible with the demand for testing far exceeding the supply. However, “it wasn’t like this before December”, says Mr.Bicknell. Breaks increase the spread of COVID, and it seems that just when the situation calms, another big break out comes up. 

According to Mr.Bicknell, “wearing a mask by all and vaccinating everyone is the only solution,” as of right now, virtual is not even an option allowed by the Florida government. This presents an issue because “even if we wanted to, we couldn’t go back to spacing”; West Boca just doesn’t have enough space to create holding rooms, or space students 6 feet apart in classrooms anymore. The only thing left to do is tackle things day by day and protect yourself by wearing a mask.