Fully vaccinated students should be given tests

Aleena Siddiqui '22, Page Editor

In a district-wide email sent as we returned from winter break, the quarantine mandates were updated for GPPSS. Per the update, students exposed to COVID-19 in a school setting that are asymptomatic and fully vaccinated do not need to quarantine. If unvaccinated, but in a masked setting, the exposed student can participate in activities if they wear a mask and test every other day for a week. As always, anyone who is symptomatic should not attend school or participate in school-sanctioned activities. A positive COVID-19 test requires quarantine for at least ten days regardless of symptoms.

I understand that the district is following state guidelines and making the decisions that are safest for the community. However, every one of my friends that have gotten COVID-19 are fully vaccinated students, some symptomatic, some asymptomatic. I can say two things for sure: We know that fully vaccinated individuals can still get sick, maybe with less severe symptoms, and asymptomatic cases can still transmit the virus.

Since we’ve returned from break, we have a total of 99 students in quarantine. Every day we sit in our classes as staff members enter the room with their yard sticks looking for the seating chart to contact another handful of students who are close contacts. In the spring of 2021, this meant that anyone in a six-foot radius of the COVID-19 positive student was sent home to quarantine for two weeks. Now, we’re in a much better place, with a majority of students fully vaccinated and many with their booster shots, but with new variants, students are dropping like flies.

In an effort to keep as many students in school as possible and avoid unnecessary quarantining, the school offers COVID-19 testing. Students can stop by the main office, and athletic trainers are equipped to offer testing to exposed students. It’s not that easy though. If you’re fully vaccinated, you can not get tested at school. Even if you’re fully vaccinated and asymptomatic, you can transmit COVID-19. We are trying to be safe and make the right decisions. We are required to wear masks while on school grounds, but that doesn’t account for every moment of the day. During lunch, many students are packed together in the commons, the cafeteria and even with friends in their cars.

We can not treat fully vaccinated students as invincible. Until a third of my classes aren’t home sick, we need to continue to be cautious. No one has all the answers, and we can only follow what the health department advises. As variants evolve and spread faster, we need to give all students the opportunity to feel safe at school.