Quarantine requirements cause frustration for some, students understand necessity
The new system of contact tracing, implemented at the beginning of the school year, determines close contact between infected students and those around them.
This process is commonly used in many schools and businesses. Here on campus, in the circumstance that someone contracts the virus, contact tracers look closely at where students and faculty have been, from locations such as chapel at school to study group areas. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention frequently alters the definition of close contact, but as of now, it is considered as an aggregate of 15 minutes in 48 hours. This has significantly increased the qualification for close contact, causing more students to be sent home.
“[Sometimes], you have to assume that you’re in close contact,” nurse Marcia Biggs said. “That means that you go home for 14 days and shift to remote learning and hope that you continue to feel well. No one around you is necessarily in any jeopardy because they would be considered a contact of a contact.”
Sports have caused some challenges in determining primary contacts from secondary contacts.
“If a member of the cheer team [tests positive], the whole team will be quarantined because they would all be considered a close contact,” Biggs said. “This is due to the nature of how they interact with one another. It’s just the way it is, that’s my short answer.”
If it can not be verified that the athlete or student was not in close contact or farther than 10 feet from the positive person, then they must quarantine for two weeks.
“[Not being verified] is really tough,” Head of Upper School Henry Heil said. “It’s a really big pill for people to swallow… and frustrating for some people.”
Quarantined athletes have tried to stay connected by watching their team games and cheering on their teammates through their computers. The school has worked hard to put together livestreams to keep the community connected.
“It [has been really hard not playing volleyball], but I still cheered my team on and told them that I was there and watching the games online,” sophomore Alexa Grabow said. “The other people on my team that were quarantined and I all watched and supported them, but it was definitely hard not being there.”
With seasonal illnesses rising such as the flu, stomach bug and the yearly ragweed season, it has been hard to distinguish some symptoms from COVID-19.
“[There is illness] every day of every school year, and this year is no different, unfortunately,” Biggs said. “Most things are what they appear to be, normal garden variety stuff, so I treat them like normal garden variety stuff. But if you flag on Ascend, and it tells you to stay home based on symptoms, I [would] ask you to stay home for at least that day and probably the next day.”
Students who do not have the virus have still had to quarantine for two weeks and learn remotely, which has been hard for some people. In some cases, when a student quarantines prior to a positive COVID-19 test, the system is effective in preventing the spread of the virus.
“I understood why, but it was obviously frustrating being negative and not being able to do anything,” Grabow said. “[I know] that they [are] just trying to be safe because if someone did test positive and [still came to school], a lot more people would have to quarantine.”
A concern when it comes to contact tracing is people lying about what gatherings they have been to in fear of getting sent home. So far, most families have been more upfront about possibly being exposed.
“There’s a lot at stake here, and in the grand scheme of things, two weeks of quarantine is not a big deal, but… I would hate [to be responsible for getting others sick],” Heil said. “So that guides my family’s decisions, and I’m assuming that would guide a lot of other families’ decisions.”
Although it has been hard on quarantined students, many understand and support contact tracing and the school’s dedication to the safety and well being of each student and faculty member.
“I do [think the contact tracing system is efficient],” Grabow said. “Obviously, the school can’t control my situation and who people hang out with outside of class, but I feel like they are doing really well.”