What balls and diplomas might look like this year with COVID-19 still looming

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After prom and graduation were canceled or held virtually last year during lockdowns from the COVID-19 pandemic, high school rites of passage will likely be different this spring – if they happen at all .

In Connecticut, which recently shared “strategies” on planning school year-end events, the departments of national education and public health recommended that for prom, schools require proof of. negative COVID-19 test for unvaccinated students and limit informed guests students have better control over testing and contact tracing. It is also suggested to eliminate food and drink, or to have designated “mask break” areas to limit the removal of facial coatings.

The state also strongly recommends that the prom and graduation be held outdoors as late as possible in the school year.

“I strongly recommend that you book it later, the better. Just give yourself a little more flexibility in case something untoward happens, ”Governor Ned Lamont said at a press briefing last week, adding that the wait could also allow for warmer weather. and higher vaccination rates.

“I can tell you that I am very confident that your prom and graduation will hopefully take place outside,” he said.

In Ohio, an outdoor ball and graduation are also recommended, with masks and social distancing required. Dancing is permitted, with the instruction to use masks “whenever the distance of 6 feet cannot be consistently maintained”.

For graduation, the state’s health department suggests that schools hold multiple events in a space large enough to allow social distancing, with an indoor capacity limited to 25%, as well as a virtual option. Some schools in Cincinnati have decided to hold their degrees offsite, at the Cintas Center at Xavier University, according to the Cincinnatti Inquirer.

In New York City, virtual ceremonies are “strongly encouraged,” though the state’s health department recommends drive-through, drive-thru, or one-on-one graduation to maximize social distancing. Included in the state’s nine-page guidelines, other in-person gatherings would need to conduct health examinations, strengthen social distancing between households and demand masks. Events that exceed state assembly limits (currently 100 people indoors or 200 outdoors) should require attendees to take a negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours of the event or evidence vaccination.

Graduation ceremonies can take place from May 1 and balls from June 1, with recommendations for the latter, including creating dance zones for tables or allocating dance floor hours.

Several states, like Texas, have lifted their restrictions on COVID-19, although schools may have local or district measures still in effect. In early April, WFAA, affiliated with ABC Dallas, found that school districts in North Texas were so far mixed. Some plan to keep it with health protocols in place, while others have canceled it due to room capacity or dance restrictions or are still finalizing their plans. Several districts organize the graduation ceremony in the open air in a stadium.

The Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education “strongly recommends” that schools not have proms, warning that this is an “inherently high-risk activity.”

If schools decide to hold the ball, he advises them to wait until the end of the school year, “ideally, delaying the time when most of the students who attend the ball have been vaccinated.” They should also adhere to state restrictions, which currently limit indoor events to 100 people and outdoor events to 150 people. Outdoor diplomas are not subject to a capacity limit, but must follow other restrictions, including no food or drink served and a limit of 6 guests per graduate.

After a year of mostly Zoom school and virtual game nights, Benjamin Moshes, the senior class president at Newton South High School in Newton, Mass., Has advocated for an outdoor ball that can allow his class to sit. fully gather for the first time since their last school party, in May 2019.

“I’m obviously in favor of regulation and safety of events because COVID is a bad disease,” Moshes told ABC News. “But I also don’t think events that are inherently done safely and that are much safer than other things that are allowed to happen should be banned and regulated as much as they have been. “

School administrators encouraged them to throw a ball in one form or another, Moshes said. Within the state’s current capacity limits, the celebration, slated for June 6, is likely to be held in several events to accommodate those planning to attend its promotion, which has around 500 students, he said. declared.

The class president is hoping they can get permission from the city to host an event that can bring everyone together outside, like on a school grounds or parking lot, with health protocols in place.

Separate events are “better than no prom,” he said. “But I don’t think it’s the best we can do. “

For Dr. Simone Wildes, an infectious disease specialist at South Shore Health and a collaborator with the ABC News Medical Unit, an outdoor ball where many students are fully vaccinated would be optimal. Otherwise, “I think people should avoid balls,” she said.

“A ball is a big party,” she says. “There’s no way you can watch and manage this group as well as you can to get your degree.… Inside people get together, eat, drink, dance, I just think it’s an activity to do. high risk at this time. ”

Planning for year-end events will likely be a “very difficult decision” for schools which will depend on what each community chooses to do, she said.

“They really want to celebrate, but I think the key is just, in the days of COVID, that we want to do it safely,” she said. “These measures will not go away overnight. “

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