Published Oct. 5, 2023
BY GRAYDEN MILLER
While the CUSD website has a COVID-19 protocol that can be found with a couple clicks and button pressing, most students and faculty within the district either aren’t aware that there’s a policy or don’t know much about it.
According to CHS health aide Wilder Grummon, there has been a drop in the number of cases in the beginning of September, with the Los Angeles Times COVID-19 tracker showing 13 total infected patients in Monterey, with a negative 32% trend in the past 14 days in positive cases as of Sep. 26. Yet there haven’t been any notable changes from the 2022-23 school year’s protocol, according to an email issued to all CUSD district workers Aug. 25.
The California Department of Public Health’s COVID-19 protocol has not been updated since May 2023, and most CHS students and faculty aren’t even aware that CUSD has an updated protocol.
Barbara McBride, a teacher at CHS, explains that she isn’t clear what changes have been made since teachers had to test for the virus weekly.
“I haven’t gotten anything from the district about COVID-19,” the longtime English teacher says. “I don’t even know if teachers still have access to COVID-19 paid leave, like we did last year.”
Junior Savanna Bell says that other than knowing that one has to stay home if infected, she hadn’t known there is a protocol.
Junior Kylie Wright explains that the school hasn’t talked about the rules in so long that she doesn’t really know what to do when it comes to COVID-19 now, while others say they know the nurses weren’t allowed to distribute tests anymore.
“I think that if you test positive you have to stay home for five days and then you are free to go back to school, but I don’t know,” says Wright. “The school hasn’t talked about the rules in so long. That’s all I know.”
Most say that they have no idea what the protocol is, including recently infected students.
Sophomore Adam Angel says that the latest strain of COVID-19 led to him experiencing symptoms such as dissociation and symptoms similar to allergies that later developed into feelings of fatigue and headaches, and says that he isn’t too worried about COVID-19, except for the risk that immunocompromised individuals may face.
“We don’t need strict guidelines if people just use their heads and figure out what is best going to protect us and vulnerable people,” Angel says.
Grummon touches upon the lack of incentive that students could feel when it comes to self-reporting their cases.
“The parameters were so stringent and it was such a hotbed of controversy that people might have trouble self-reporting,” the health aide says.
Although it is clearly laid out that quarantine is mandated for five days after a student or staff member tests positive after leaving campus and that mask usage is encouraged for 10 days after exhibiting minor usage in public settings, self-reporting has become somewhat of an alien concept when it comes to new protocol. For example, according to most CHS teachers, asymptomatic individuals might accidentally spread the virus to others, and the missing assignments that can come with extended absence might entice students to ignore symptoms and continue to come to school. Therefore, a level of doubt can come with self-reporting.
According to principal’s secretary Lisa Brazil, some students and faculty members do not specify the type of sickness when filing in for an absence, so teachers and other staff members may find it difficult to get a read on the severity of the situation.
Some language in publicly issued COVID-19 related information has evolved from mandated to strongly encouraged as California has shifted to a reporting system called Shared Portal for Outbreak Tracking, or SPOT, in which state law mandates schools or district sites to report an outbreak of the disease if three or more cases are found within the span of seven days.
But how are schools supposed to track the number of cases?
Self-mandated reporting has become the primary information source for Grummon and Gianna Halton, the district nurse. Mandated on-site testing, social distancing and online learning might have been removed, but mask usage continues to be encouraged by some CHS faculty and COVID-19 protocol as of the moment.
Halton explains that some sick students can test negative for COVID-19 and assume they should be at school, sometimes ignoring other diseases that could potentially infect others.
Even if students and faculty members don’t exhibit all COVID-19 symptoms, some aren’t reluctant to throw on a mask. But at the same time, Grummon recognizes that there seems to be a shared air of malaise when it comes to pandemic talk or anything that revolves around it.
“I don’t think that masks need to be mandatory… people can be considerate of one another,” says Grummon, the former operating room worker, who had experience in the hospital in the height of the pandemic. “It’s such a volatile subject that the word ‘mandate’ brings such a heavy connotation to it…. It makes people bristle.”
Libby Duethman, currently in her first year as CHS principal, saw a spike in the number of cases around the end of August and the beginning of September. She says that the district hasn’t sent out any information regarding COVID-19 due to lack of cases meeting the threshold that discerns whether the student body and faculty are at risk.