Local schools watch closely as omicron variant appears in U.S.

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LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — Health experts confirmed the first case of the Omicron COVID variant has been detected in the U.S.

It was found in California. Local officials are closely monitoring the latest developments to see what impact the omicron variant will have on our region.

There is definitely a concern but not panic among the school officials Eyewitness News spoke with. They say the bottom line is keeping everyone in the district as safe as possible.

“We have to operate a normal day here. I don’t want to create a panic. We don’t want to create anything,” said Nathan Barrett, the superintendent of the Hanover Area School District.

Eyewitness News heard that over and over again from school district officials from across the region.

Barrett says the district has implemented COVID-19 safety measures. He says cases of COVID are on the rise in his district. He thinks the Omicron variant could be a wake-up call.

“I feel we need to start going back to the basics. I think families including myself are feeling a little bit more comfortable allowing their children to go out after school to meet with friends in person. I believe we need to start retreating a little bit, start having a little more respect for the virus,” explained Barrett.

The Crestwood School District is also waiting and watching the emerging Omicron variant.

“We are going to continue being masked, social distancing, continue to follow our safety protocols. Hopefully, whatever should come we’re going to be able to fight it off. Great proactive we learned from the beginning,” stated Robert Mehalick, superintendent of the Crestwood School District.

As for masking, he says he’s not surprised the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled the state-ordered mask mandate will be in effect until at least December 8th as further legal arguments are yet to be heard.

“The Board of Education will make the decision of we are going to give parents choice or keep local masks mandate,” explained Mehalick.

Jennifer Poncavage has three children in the Crestwood School District, she says the Omicron variant is on her radar.

“I think I’m just sort of watching and waiting and just seeing if it’s any different than Delta’s previous variant. Hopefully, the vaccines will still be effective and we won’t have to worry about it,” said Poncavage.

Other school officials tell Eyewitness News they are watching and waiting to see if the Omicron variant becomes a major problem.

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