By Audrey Wang
The COVID-19 pandemic has been ongoing for nearly two years now, and Winsor is still actively updating its restrictions. This January, there was a massive spike in the number of cases due to the Omicron variant, resulting in the decision to have online school for the first week back from break. In my opinion, Winsor made the right decision; with an inevitably high amount of ill or close-contact students, it would have been unsafe to reopen in-person schooling so soon. Most public schools surrounding Boston continued in-person school during the peak of the Omicron variant, but there were supposedly a large number of student and teacher absences. If Winsor had not gone online that week, the school would likely be almost vacant. In comparison to other schools, Winsor has been more cautious regarding COVID. To further reduce the risk of infection from the Omicron spike, for the whole month of January, Winsor conducted pool testing for all community members.
Since the beginning of the 2021-22 school year, Winsor has been pool testing unvaccinated individuals weekly. While 97% of the entire school has already been vaccinated, I think that it is still important to test unvaccinated members of the community, especially since vaccination does not necessarily guarantee safety from infection, so Winsor is doing a superb job with testing. Masks are also required indoors but not outdoors, but the type of mask required is not specified. However, I personally feel that cloth masks should not be allowed unless worn over a surgical mask. The filtration efficiency for cloth masks is usually around 20% when worn alone, which is significantly lower than surgical or respiratory masks. Although Omicron is on its decline, it is still a highly contagious variant, so allowing students to wear only cloth masks would be risky. Surgical masks also are not typically the most effective compared to respiratory masks like the N95, KN95, and KF94 since their filtration efficiency can range from 42-88%, but since surgical masks may be more obtainable for some families, I believe that only cloth masks should be banned. When I consulted a fellow student, Calista Nelson ’24 said that “while wearing cloth masks alone should definitely be banned, Winsor should also provide boxes of surgical masks right at the vestibule of the academic building rather than having students go to Ms. Marshall for accessibility purposes.” In contrast, Ms. Geromini, a member of the Winsor staff who deals with COVID policies, said that “Winsor has followed the CDC and DESE guidelines closely, including their mask recommendations”; the executives did not try to impose restrictions on types of masks due to government allowance. Even so, I believe that with the resources Winsor has, it would be beneficial to supply students with better masks and ban the usage of cloth masks alone.
In conclusion, I think Winsor is doing an adequate job taking care of student health in regards to the COVID-19 pandemic, especially with testing, but it may be helpful to update the masking policy.