Omicron Disrupts a True Return to Normalcy


A post-Covid Novato basketball game.

Brett Huser

With a great increase in positive COVID cases throughout Marin schools over the last month, and the new Omicron variant surging, Marin Health officials had enforced many restrictions and precautions to keep COVID numbers as low as possible. The goal was to keep all schools open. The regulations are starting to ease up as Omicron plateaus, but the impact was felt deeply throughout campus.

One of the main points of emphasis for the county health officials was to make indoor events, specifically sporting events, safer. Initially, there was a plan to restrict all spectators from viewing indoor sporting events. This would have included basketball and wrestling events.

The plan was slightly eased, allowing parents and legal guardians of players to attend games and performances. A limit of 50 parents in attendance was enforced. By rule, all parents in attendance needed to be fully vaccinated and boosted, and wear a face-covering during the entirety of the game/event. All other outside spectators, including students, were not allowed to attend any games. 

Fortunately, that changed on January 25th, allowing up to 500 spectators for indoor events. This allowed more fans to attend the boys’ basketball dominant victory over rival San Marin. 

NHS boys varsity basketball coach and math teacher David Blair expressed his gratitude for the great turnout of students who showed up.

“We played one of our most complete games of the year Tuesday night against that school across town,” he said. “And I think it was directly related to our student section cheering for the team. You feel that as a player and build off of that positive noise.”

Just two days after the 500 spectator limit was enforced, the restriction was lifted altogether, and there was no longer a limit on the number of spectators at either indoor or outdoor events. However, for events exceeding 500 people, schools must follow the state’s ‘mega event’ guidelines, which require proof of a recent negative Covid test or full vaccination. All fans are still required to wear masks at indoor events, regardless of the number of people in attendance. 

Despite this change, Novato High will be sticking with the 500 spectator limit, so that there is no proof of vaccination or negative Covid test needed for spectators.

NHS athletic director Michele Smith explained the school’s decision.

“We do not plan on hosting a mega-event here at Novato during the basketball season, but you never know, that could change,” she said.

A possible reason for the original restrictions was that many Marin basketball programs had COVID outbreaks among their teams. An “outbreak” is defined as four or more team members with a positive test over a 14-day period. Health officials have imposed a seven-day suspension for teams who have outbreaks. Players who test positive must follow the county’s ‘five-days-and-test’ quarantine program, and cannot play until testing negative.

During the 50-spectator-limit period, many indoor sports athletes were upset and worried that they wouldn’t be able to play in front of full crowds this season, especially after last year, when all indoor sports seasons were shortened and played with no fans. However, the midseason rule change to relax restrictions delivered a much-needed positive.

Novato High senior and varsity basketball player Shaw Moreno explained how the presence of fans can have such an impact on games.

“The atmosphere was not the same without fans,” said Moreno. “As a team, we can create our own energy, but it always helps to have the fans to get the energy going throughout the game.”

Athletes aren’t the only students getting affected by the surge of the Omicron variant. Overall, the concern for safety has increased immensely over the last month or so, as roughly 10 Novato High teachers and administrators have missed extended periods of time due to testing positive for Covid. It seems like there have been more student absences within the last month than ever seen before. 

MSA Theatre’s ‘Young Frankenstein’ has been postponed to March 4th. Other upcoming events, such as the Powderpuff football game, could also get pushed back or not happen at all.

In the classroom, all adults in direct contact with students are now required to be fully vaccinated and boosted. This includes teachers, volunteers, guest speakers, and substitutes. Students who test positive for Covid are expected to keep up with schoolwork from home and must return as soon as possible, after a 5 day quarantine and a negative Covid test. If a student tests positive again, they must quarantine for at least another 5 days.

The last thing students want to experience is another period of lockdown and online schooling. After all the progress made as a county, including vaccinations and businesses reopening, it is important to maintain this return to somewhat normalcy.