HomeCampusEver-changing COVID-19 protocols on campus to battle delta variant

Ever-changing COVID-19 protocols on campus to battle delta variant

By RILEY PALSHAW

With the spread of the delta variant and the 2021-22 school year now in full swing, questions have risen about the protocol at Carmel High School for when kids inevitably catch coronavirus, and the answers have been changing regularly. 

As of now, the protocol at the high school is being modeled after the Monterey County Office of Education and their guidance for schools, which essentially is a giant flowchart of “if thens.” Students who have been exposed but are vaccinated will not have to quarantine or test unless symptoms develop, regardless of whether they were wearing a face covering. If symptoms develop, students will take a COVID-19 test the fifth day after exposure, and if the test is positive, they will isolate for 10 days after symptoms arose. Meanwhile, contact tracing will be conducted on campus by designated contact tracers Cass Hanson and Danielle Caoili, with the tracing looking back and beginning two days prior to the student’s symptoms. 

“If you are vaccinated, even if you are sick, you may get back a lot faster,” says CHS principal Jon Lyons, adding that for unvaccinated students the process differs slightly depending on whether the student was wearing a mask when they were exposed and if their test comes back positive.

Some of these decisions hadn’t yet been made when the school year started. For example, one vaccinated CHS student who had been exposed the week before school started and tested positive a few days later took it upon himself to notify the school of his situation. From there, the school told him to quarantine for the full 10 days, resulting in him missing the entire first week of school, despite having two negative test results a couple of days after. 

CHS health clerk Wilder Grummon notes that this process is “constantly under review and monitored daily, if not hourly,” and it, like everything else during the pandemic, is subject to change.

To minimize the spread of COVID-19 on campus, students are required to wear masks in class. (photo by Riley Palshaw)

But now unvaccinated students who were wearing masks may attend school with a mask if they are experiencing no symptoms, but they will be excluded from all extracurriculars for the time being, including sports. Those students will be tested twice during the 10 days after initial exposure, and if they receive a positive test or develop symptoms, they too will be quarantined for 10 days either after their test date or after they developed symptoms, depending on what applies to that individual’s situation. 

If an unvaccinated person who wasn’t wearing a mask is exposed to COVID-19, that person will quarantine for 10 days following the exposure date. If their test comes back negative after the first five days, that student may return to school on the seventh day. If the student never takes a test, but shows no signs of symptoms, they will be released on the 10th day. From there, the student is recommended to continue to monitor their symptoms for an additional four days when they return to school, while also wearing their masks, avoiding large groups and continually washing their hands. 

“The goal is to try and have something that is universal and adaptable enough so that if things change we could still work with it,” the principal says. 

Right now, the message when a kid gets sick is this: when you’re in doubt, call. From there, the attendance, health and administrative offices will help guide the family through making a decision depending on the sick student’s individual situation. 

So how does administration respond to a student calling in sick?

“The first question we’re going to ask is about your vaccine status,” says Lyons, “because your vaccine status determines how much access you get back to class. If you are symptomatic and unvaccinated, you’re probably going to land in quarantine. And that’s the short answer.”

Beginning Sept. 6, students returning from any sort of absence must be cleared through the attendance office before heading back to class and any students returning from an illness must go through the health office as well. Ultimately, the administration’s goal is to get sick students back to school as quickly but, most importantly, as safely as possible. 

“I don’t want to be guided by fear,” Grummon says. “I want this to be an enjoyable place. If we can stay on the same messaging and be mindful and thoughtful of the process and how we’re doing it, then I know it will be great.”

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