School confirms first COVID-19 case of the year


Davis Marks/Chronicle

Before the start of school, students gather on the fire road for mandatory COVID-19 testing by grade level. Constant testing ensures the safety of the community in the event of a positive case, so students can prevent the spread of the virus.

Davis Marks and Alex Hahn

The Community Health Office confirmed the first case of COVID-19 at the Upper School Monday following two weeks of in-person school.

After hearing of a positive test result from a student, the Community Health Office contact-traced the student and developed two lists: those with close contact to the student and those with casual, meaning lesser but still probable, contact.

Head of Communications and Strategic Initiatives Ari Engelberg ’89, who has helped lead the school’s response to the pandemic, said these lists helped the school in notifying students who had contact with the infected individual.

“[Hundreds of] students got no notice, some got a notice of casual contact (which was really sent out of abundance of caution and transparency) and a few got a letter and phone call to notify them of close contact,” Engelberg said in an email.

Students with close contact to the infected student were asked to submit proof of a negative COVID-19 PCR test before returning to campus, but because of the four-day weekend, impacted students did not have to stay home.

The name of the student with COVID-19 was not disclosed by the school as the school considers the health status of students to be confidential and private.

This COVID-19 case emerged despite the school implementing various preventative measures, such as a vaccination requirement and an indoor mask mandate, to combat the virus. Although these procedures were not successful in stopping COVID-19 from entering the community, the Community Health Office said the safety measures in place proved essential as they reduced the transmission of the virus, meaning students with minimal contact were not put in danger and were able to return to campus.

Engelberg said he does not believe the confirmed case will impact the school’s approach to COVID-19 due to the various measures the school takes in preventing transmissions of the virus in the community.

“We have already required vaccination in order to be on campus (with a few valid exceptions), we already require that students, faculty, and staff test regularly, we already require that masks be worn in all indoor spaces and we are generally very aggressive when it comes to investigating possible exposures, contact tracing, quarantining when necessary and testing to confirm negative status before return to campus,” Engelberg said.

Henry Ullendorf ’23, who received an email notifying him of close contact with the case, said he was originally worried about the news but remained optimistic about the school remaining open due to the school’s focus on preventing transmission of the virus.

“[The email] kind of scared me because it means school could go online, which I would be really upset about,” Ullendorf said. “But I know how the school isolates the cases, and I have high hopes we can keep this year going strong.”

Similar to Ullendorf, Natasha Clement ’24 received the email notifying her of close contact but said she thinks the news about the case is troubling and that it reminded her that the virus is still dangerous and students must remain careful about COVID-19 protection.

“I found the email announcing the positive case concerning because it reminds us that the virus is still a threat, no matter how hard we try to protect ourselves,” Clement said. “The best we can do is be as cautious as we can.”