Your COVID Questions Answered

Your COVID Questions Answered

By Gloria Kosir, Editor in Chief

As Niles West welcomes students and teachers back to in-person instruction and students are beginning to quarantine, some families are unclear on protocols regarding COVID guidance. Principal Dr. Karen Ritter, Assistant Principal of Student Services Dr. Antwan Babakhani, and the school nurses have answers to your most frequently asked questions.

Many are concerned about the possibility of having to quarantine because of sitting near someone who has tested positive for COVID. Babakhani clarified the benchmarks that would send someone home to quarantine: “Exposure is now defined as being within three to six feet of a positive person for 15+ minutes with NO MASK. So if a person is masked, there is no need to quarantine. Also, if a person is less than three feet for 15+ minutes and unvaccinated, then that person is considered exposed and will need to be quarantined for 14 days (regardless of mask status),” Babakhani said.

There are, however, different scenarios for those who come in contact with COVID, and different procedures for the vaccinated and unvaccinated.

The flowchart for different COVID scenarios, including those who are vaccinated and unvaccinated.

Students and faculty members who come down with symptoms are currently being asked to get tested after the third day of symptoms, per Skokie Health Department recommendations. According to Babakhani, if a student is vaccinated, he or she has to be quarantined for 10 days and symptom-free for at least 24 hours before returning to school.

For students who aren’t feeling well in class, there is a separate procedure. This procedure applies regardless of vaccination status.

“We have an isolation room where the student would wait [while] we contact your parents,” Babakhani said. At the moment, students are being asked to test on the third day of the onset of symptoms. If the test comes back negative, students are permitted to return, but it’s ultimately a family decision. The district doesn’t want ill students to come to school and possibly spread those viruses, even if it’s something as common as the flu.

The list of symptoms that the nurses at the Nurse’s Office screen for include:

  • Fever (100.4°F or higher)
  • New onset of moderate to severe headache
  • Shortness of breath, new cough, sore throat, vomiting, or diarrhea
  • New loss of sense of taste or smell
  • Fatigue from unknown cause
  • Muscle or body aches from unknown cause

Students need only experience one symptom to be sent into a mandatory three-day quarantine.

Babakhani also explained that the district is measuring the effectiveness of the measures taken through positive COVID cases. However, there is no definite number that would cause Niles West to return to remote schooling.

In an email, Ritter also shed some light on the reasoning behind masking requirements.

“If COVID positivity rates lessen, if the state allows masks to no longer be required, we will follow that guidance. We do not make the decision independently from the state guidance and Skokie Public Health guidance,” Ritter wrote.