Students Infected Over Break Isolate, and Feel Isolated, as School Resumes

Photo by Olivia Brown.

When senior Zorah Williams returned home from a vacation to Disney World during winter break, she and the rest of her family began to cough and had high fevers. Her mother tested positive for COVID-19 the day they arrived home, but the family was unable to find tests for the children to take while their mom was isolated, Williams told the Bit. The next day, the family decided to quarantine together because they were all showing signs of COVID. 

On Jan. 5, Williams tested positive for COVID-19. “I have a few lingering symptoms like nausea and a cough,” she said in an interview on Jan. 3, “so I’m probably staying at home for a little bit longer.” She plans to return to school on Tuesday, Jan. 12.

GDS students who tested positive for COVID have been required to stay at home as school resumes after winter break. While in isolation, four students who spoke with the Bit have experienced varied symptoms and felt detached from their friends and school life. All four students interviewed were vaccinated against COVID but none have received a booster shot.

For her part, Williams was unable to participate in Christmas traditions due to the severity of her COVID symptoms, including sinus pressure and high fevers. She could not see her friends in person and was too sick to even want to, she said. Instead, Williams spent most of her time working on college applications, playing with her brothers, talking with friends on FaceTime and watching TV shows.

Other infected students shared Williams’ frustration and are weary after two years of lockdowns and other COVID-related disruptions. Freshman Christian Santos Silva said that isolating following a positive test was “emotionally and physically draining.” 

Santos Silva’s dad also tested positive for COVID and they began to isolate together. He mainly spent his time in isolation playing video games and watching movies. 

Santos Silva described his experience staying isolated while most GDS students returned to campus for classes on Jan. 5: “It just felt a little stressful and weird since I knew I was supposed to be in school, but I was not. It felt stressful because all I could think about today was the work I had to make up when I got back.” 

Freshman Angelique Faselis, who also tested positive for the virus early in break, ordered pizza almost daily throughout her isolation. She stayed distanced from her family and did not see any friends or other relatives. “For three days, I felt very sick,” she said, “but after that, the symptoms completely changed to basically just a normal cold.” 

As her symptoms lessened, Faselis grew increasingly unhappy that she could not leave her house. “It was towards the end of my quarantine that I felt upset that I was at home,” she said. She went on to explain that “I would use the word annoyed. That’s how I felt.”

According to GDS’ COVID dashboard, 73 community members have tested positive for COVID since Jan. 3 through on- and off-campus testing. Five of the cases detected off-campus were high school students. The dashboard does not specify how many of the other positive tests were high schoolers.

GDS requires community members to isolate for ten days after receiving a positive COVID test. Last month, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shortened to five days its recommendation for the quarantine period for asymptomatic infected people. However, Head of School Russel Shaw wrote in an email to parents on Dec. 30 that the DC Department of Health has not yet implemented that guidance for local schools.  

Freshman Samson Lowenstein, who also received a positive COVID test during the break, spent most of his isolation in his attic. He FaceTimed with the rest of his family while eating dinner and wore masks and remained “ten yards” away from them while opening Christmas presents.

“One of my friends also had COVID, so we spent a lot of time playing games and FaceTiming,” he said. “I probably spent 100 hours straight just on my phone because I couldn’t do anything else.”

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