Was PDS’s Response to Omicron Successful?


Omicron’s resurgence has taken over the world– has PDS combatted it effectively? Photo Courtesy of Innovative Genomics Institute

Arun Patel, Online Sports Editor

“Omicron” or “Omnicron” — no matter how you pronounce it, you definitely know about it. Headlines all over the news, radio, snapchat, and Instagram make it virtually impossible to not know about this new COVID-19 variant. First detected on November 11, 2021 in Botswana, this variant startled scientists from all over, fearful of its high transmission rates and potential resistance to the vaccines currently in circulation. These fears turned out to be true, and Omicron was shown to be much more transmissible and slightly more resistant to vaccines. This research set the world on fire, as nations prepared for lockdowns and an uptick in hospitalizations. Amid this global concern, PDS has adapted its procedures and protocols to fit this new variant. 

On January 25, Director of Wellness Dr. Maritoni Shah and Head of School Paul Stellato sent out a letter to parents addressing a potential shift in definitions: “The change that we are anticipating is that the NJDOH will now require boosters for students 12 years and older to be considered fully vaccinated. When a student is fully vaccinated, they are not required to quarantine when they are considered a close contact and can remain in school.” As of Sunday, February 13, this change has yet to be enacted , and according to PDS Together, “Students are considered fully vaccinated 14 days after they have received their final COVID-19 vaccination dose. Faculty and Staff are considered fully vaccinated after they have received their full COVID-19 vaccination doses and have received a COVID Booster.” The shift is among faculty and staff and does not pertain to the students. While this may seem that PDS is simply ignoring the effectiveness of the booster, the website also states, “For all students who are eligible to receive a booster vaccination (ages 12 and older), Princeton Day School recommends that they receive their booster vaccination as soon as possible.” While this does suggest that students should receive a booster, it does not require it, which will potentially deter those who might be hesitant to take the booster.

PDS also has new policies for those who must quarantine. As of Sunday, February 13, “Fully vaccinated individuals do not need to quarantine if they have been in close contact with a COVID+ individual and are symptom free….Individuals who are not fully vaccinated (see above for definition) must quarantine for 5 days.” PDS also allowed those who were at home quarantining to drop into a class via Zoom throughout January and early February. This was a great step from PDS, as it prevented students from coming into school while sick out of fear of missing 2 weeks of school and having to catch up on their work and classes. However, this did come with a downfall, as students were directly able to see who has COVID or is a close contact, as they will be on the DTEN. These students might feel a bit uncomfortable being one of the only ones on the screen.  Previously, the PDS Health Department did not share the name of an individual who tested positive; now, they are indirectly sharing some of this confidential information. 

Finally, PDS has enacted some in-school changes, spreading out tables in the campus center to the Upper Gym, and becoming stricter with regards to mask wearing. Sophomore Justin Elkin stated, “PDS has been doing a wonderful job with handling Omicron. For example, they put tables in the upper gym, which allows for social distancing and less congestion in the campus center.” This sentiment is shared by sophomore Farhan Haque, who states, “Although there was a wave of infections at the start of the new year, PDS is handling the virus well by maintaining safety protocols and mask mandates throughout the school.” Overall, PDS has done a phenomenal job with its handling of COVID-19 for the past two years as we have been able to stay in-person and avoid online school as much as possible. PDS successfully navigated us through the Omicron wave thus far, and we can hopefully soon call it behind us. There are a few pitfalls, for example with spreading information to students and being consistent. For example, PDS spreads out tables to reduce congestion and hands out punishments/detentions for those who do not wear their mask properly, and while all of those steps are helpful in stopping the spread, many students who sit at crowded tables with their masks off often go unnoticed. While there are some shortcomings, overall, PDS has handled COVID well, and, in my opinion, will continue to do so as long as the virus is around.