COVID-19 cases increase, new protocols implemented

Updates to CDC guidelines continue to be followed, quarantine shortened


Graph of COVID-19 cases from Nov. 26 through Jan. 14 (Morales/LION).

Abraham Morales, News Editor, Multimedia Editor

Prior to Nov. 25, COVID-19 cases at LT were mostly at bay, with only a few students and staff members testing positive each week. This trend of low cases was also reflected by the rest of the community, with a positivity rate below 3.54%. However, with new variants of COVID-19 spreading, specifically Omicron, COVID-19 cases started to increase, according to the LTHS COVID-19 Dashboard.  

“The rising number of positive COVID-19 cases is a worrisome trend,” NC nurse Julie Loftus said. “The Omicron variant is moving swiftly.”

The week of Nov. 26 through Dec. 2, LT reported 17 positive cases of COVID-19 within the student body, two within staff and 34 close contacts. The rise of cases came after Thanksgiving break, which occurred right before this week’s reported cases. In the following weeks, LT reported an increase in cases within both staff and students. The week prior to winter break, LT reported 57 positive cases within the student body, 12 within staff members, and nine close contacts. 

Post winter break, LT saw a new peak of positive COVID-19 cases between Jan. 13 and Jan. 17, with 60 students testing positive. From Jan. 14 through Jan. 20, there were 15 staff members who tested positive, the highest number of cases within staff members since the beginning of the school year. 

“There seems to be this misconception that COVID-19 cases are decreasing now that we’re coming back from break, but this is incorrect,” Loftus said in mid-January. “There still continues to be many cases every week. Schools are required to report positive cases that occur in individuals who have been on campus for in-person learning or a school sponsored event such as a club or a sport. During winter break there were fewer people on campus.”

During break, administration planned for new protocols to be implemented within the classroom to further protect students and staff. The updated protocols include no group activities or food allowed during class. 

“I feel like half of my teachers have actually been following the new COVID protocols, but the other half are not,” Jessie Stanner ‘22 said. “I think these new protocols would be effective if teachers followed them, but since they’re not, I don’t see there being much impact.”  

The Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH), along with the Illinois State Board of Education, revised their guidance to incorporate the new Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) quarantine isolation recommendations that were issued on Jan. 4. These updated recommendations were applied to K-12 schools, and on Jan. 6, the IDPH released school-specific guidance. On Jan. 12, LT adopted these new guidelines and shortened their quarantine period for all students and staff to only six days (day zero being initial symptom onset or when a positive test result is obtained).

Students who do return to school on day six must continue to wear their masks and report to the alternative cafeteria (NC room 140 and SC room D103) until day 10. Attendance is supposed to be monitored every day and students who are unwilling to use the alternative cafeteria will not be eligible for the shortened exclusion period, according to the “Message from the Principal” Jennifer Tyrrell sent out on Jan. 12.

“So far, I have been the only person showing up to the alternative cafeteria for 4A lunch,” Elle Simek ‘22 said in mid-January. “I definitely know there is no way I’m the only student during my lunch period who is supposed to be reporting to the alternative cafeteria, especially [since] there was some other person who was supposed to be there with me, but [most likely] decided to just go to the regular cafeteria instead.” 

The number of students reporting to the alternative cafeteria varies everyday, but there are about roughly two to six students who are supposed to be reporting, Associate Principal Kevin Brown said. As of Jan. 26, there have been no students sent home for not following this protocol. 

“Not only have I been the only student showing up, but when I went on [Jan. 24 and Jan. 25], I had to wait 15 minutes for a teacher to show up to the [alternative] cafeteria,” Simek said. 

LT has stated that anyone who is 18 years of age or older without a COVID-19 booster shot, unvaccinated individuals, and anyone who isn’t fully vaccinated, will be considered for close contact and have to quarantine if exposed. All other individuals will not be notified if they have been exposed to someone with COVID-19.

“There seems to be a lot of inconsistencies with COVID-19 protocols and reporting,” Stanner said. “LT set these new protocols and advertised that they will be strictly enforcing them and following them in the emails they sent out, yet don’t really seem to be following through 100%.”