Raimond_Spekking (CC BY-SA 4.0)
The Academy’s system of testing the entire student population for COVID-19 weekly was, while annoying, effective. With this method, the school was able to limit community spread, catching individual cases before they passed to more people. After Spring Break, however, testing was relaxed, and now only twenty percent of students and none of the faculty are tested weekly. By testing only a fifth of each grade, Academy will not catch coronavirus cases until they have already reached a level of community spread. Testing only a portion of the group does not ensure the entire group is healthy. This is the equivalent of reaching into a bag of ten marbles, drawing two that are red, and assuming the rest must also be red.
An old adage of engineering relates that “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” The Academy’s previous system of testing everyone was working well and was catching isolated cases before more people could get infected. If someone tested positive, they and everyone they had been in contact with quarantined for two weeks as per Center for Disease Control guidelines. While not a perfect system, it greatly reduced the chances of a large number of students contracting COVID-19.
After spring break, on March 30 to 31, the Academy tested the entire student body once, before shifting to the 20 percent testing model. The test used for the return after the break was a rapid oral swab, which, while allowing for quick response, has a greater than one in five rate of false negatives. Many students left the state and even the country during spring break. With the high rate of false negatives, it is likely that an infected student returned to campus without quarantining. With winter and spring sports in full swing, and our athletes coming in contact with students from other schools, it is even more probable that at least one will contract the virus. Many schools across the country have taken this into account, and are testing their athletes more frequently. Academy has elected not to do so, even with swimmers who must compete maskless or wrestlers who grapple skin-to-skin. In a population of healthy teens, it is easy for the symptoms to go undetected, leaving kids to spread the virus without realizing it.
As students prepare for summer break, many are relaxing their observance of social distancing precautions and mask wearing. While the administration responded well to this by sending out an email reminding students of the importance of the guidelines, the school did not respond as it should have by ramping up testing. The likelihood that a student with COVID-19 is chosen to be tested in a given week is only 20 percent. We are advised not to guess randomly on multiple choice tests, yet the school is doing the same thing with even worse odds and even greater consequences. In the high likelihood that an infected student is not tested in a given week, they will likely spread the virus to more students and faculty. While more community members are vaccinated, vaccination doesn’t eliminate the risk of transmission by any means. If the school wants to adequately protect us, the administration must test all students and faculty weekly.