Westford prepares for Omicron Variant


The Franklin Institute

Photograph of Covid-19 Omicron variant

Jackie Clay, Staff Writer

The Omicron Variant is the newest Covid-19 variant about which very little is known. According the the World Health Organization (WHO), it was discovered in South Africa in November. Since then, cases of this variant have increased greatly.

On November 26th, WHO classified Omicron as a variant of concern, and the U.S. followed by declaring the same on the 30th. Westford Academy currently is still considering whether changes are necessary in order to fight the new variant.

School nurse Kathy Bourdeau says that, at WA, there is currently about one positive case a week of COVID-19. But, as cases are rising around the country, variants can still spread through unvaccinated and vaccinated individuals. Kathy Bourdeau believes school cases will rise as well.

The New York Times has reported that it is too early at this point to tell if Omicron is more severe than other versions of coronavirus. But, of the people infected so far with the vaccine, there haven’t been many serious cases with extreme symptoms.

Principal James Antonelli said that, at school, there are no large-scale changes planned as this strain is still new, and the vaccine appears to be protecting people without causing serious symptoms. Procedural changes will be made based on whether there is a dramatic increase in cases after the holiday break, when groups are gathering to celebrate.

One recent change in the school COVID protocol is the new six students to a lunch table policy. This change was made in recent weeks and now allows six students to sit at a lunch table together instead of four. Whether this will change based on the new variant is undecided.

“It could if we start to see an increase in cases at WA. We are averaging one or [fewer] cases a day, which is great news,” Antonelli said.

In the case of a huge increase of positive Coronavirus cases at WA, the school could be shut down for students and staff to quarantine. That decision would be left to the Superintendent of Westford Public Schools (WPS), Christopher Chew. 

If students begin to feel sick at school, administration recommend they stay home. Bourdeau believes that if the nurses think that the student exhibits Covid symptoms then they can be sent to the WPS Central Office behind Abbot School and participate in the Test and Stay Program.

“Students that feel sick should of course stay home,” Bourdeau said.

The Test-and-Stay program uses a nasal suave to test for Covid-19 and is able to give the results in fifteen minutes, which is detailed on the WPS website. If the result is positive, then the student goes home to quarantine. If the results are negative then the student can go back to class.

If a student is in close contact with a COVID-19 positive person at school, they will be given the COVID-19 test. If the test is negative the student will continue with the school day. The student is given the test again for five consecutive school days in total and is asked to quarantine on the weekend to make sure they don’t contract coronavirus or spread it to other students.

Going back to WA, the school is still continuing to be observant, through COVID protocol and wearing masks. Antonelli hopes that nothing in the school will have to change because of the Omicron Variant.