More than a dozen states in Mexico have decided not to return to the classroom this Monday. The Ministry of Public Education (SEP) chose not to go back to face-to-face classes scheduled for this January 3 and had insisted since the last months of 2021 on the importance of schools remaining open. The instruction was followed by most state authorities, although in recent days several entities changed the deadline due to the drop in temperatures, the rebound in covid infections and the arrival of the omicron variant in the country.
The SEP said it was ready to resume the school year in the first week of January, despite the fact that Mexico closed the year with more than 10,000 new cases of covid and began 2022 with almost 11,000. The experience that has been in the country during the pandemic is that face-to-face classes have not been a factor in the increase in infections and that health protocols have worked so that teachers, students and administrative personnel can safely resume activities. The appearance of omicron, which is projected to become the predominant variant in the coming weeks, has generated uncertainty, especially given the lack of information provided by the federal government on the progress of the new version of the virus and the reluctance to start the vaccination of children under 15 years of age, among other measures.
The SEP has sought to address the uncertainty of parents and teachers. Education authorities have announced that the booster vaccination of educational personnel will be carried out in the first weeks of 2022, although the specific dates have not yet been revealed, according to a statement released over the weekend. It was also said that Secretariat staff will be supervising that the return in person to the schools is carried out safely. “In the return to classes, fortunately we did not have cases of contagion of covid-19, but it is thanks to the work and coordinated effort that parents and teachers have,” said the head, Delfina Gómez, last week. On January 6 there will be a national holiday.
Still, some states prefer to be cautious. Nuevo León, for example, delayed the return to face-to-face classes until next January 10. State authorities said since last week that they were already in a fourth wave of infections, despite the fact that their federal counterparts sent the opposite signal: that the pandemic was on the decline. On the educational issue, the Government of Samuel García has once again set a distance with the rest of the country due to the crowds, the Christmas festivities and the proximity of the State to the United States.
Another border state that decided to postpone a week was Coahuila, on alert due to the low temperatures that have been registered in recent days. Specialists anticipate a complicated scenario for Mexico due to the winter cold and the greater contagion capacity of omicron and delta. A committee of experts has recommended to the state government to adjust the face-to-face classes to the temperatures that are registered and the educational level, seeking to take additional precautions with the youngest students.
Baja California Sur, the state with the highest rate of active covid cases per 100,000 inhabitants, has also decided to backtrack. The return will be until January 17, at a time when state authorities have already confirmed the first case of omicron in a 21-year-old asymptomatic young woman. In the northern part of the peninsula, the Baja California border has also delayed the return to classrooms for the same date. Quintana Roo, another state that has seen cases skyrocket due to the absence of restrictions on tourism and mobility, has opted for virtual classes until January 14, when it will decide whether to lift the restrictions or not.
San Luis Potosí, Hidalgo, Tamaulipas, Chihuahua, Jalisco and Yucatán have also announced suspensions in recent days, in some cases practically last minute. The State of Mexico had already anticipated since December that it was going to wait until February for the return of all educational levels. Others like Puebla have decided on a hybrid model, with the return of only half of the students, a formula similar to that of Tlaxcala. “Given that there are already cases of omicron in our State, as a preventive measure we have received the recommendation of the health authority that we return to classes in a staggered model,” reads a statement from the Tlaxcala authorities.
Despite the instruction of the SEP, the final decision rests with the state secretariats. The decision to buy time to see the health balance of the Christmas and New Year celebrations, as well as the first traces of omicron in the country, is a thermometer of the current state of the pandemic and a geography of the areas that fear the rebound. The concern seems to focus more on infections that occur outside of school and the lack of clarity about the booster vaccination strategy of the federal authorities. It is a complicated start to the course, marked by the initial phases of a new wave of infections and the anticipated arrival of omicron.
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