Forty-five seniors test positive for COVID-19 on Israel Capstone Trip

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Photo used with permission of Hannah Davis

The Class of 2022 on their Daniel and Irene Simpkins Senior Capstone Trip.

Reyut Wasserstein , Reporter

Forty-five seniors on the Irene and Daniel Simpkins Senior Capstone trip to Israel tested positive for COVID-19 out of the 75 students who attended the program. 

Senior Julia Peppe was the first senior on the trip to test positive for COVID-19. She tested positive on Sunday, March 6. She began feeling symptoms before going on a day trip planned for the Seniors. When Peppe eventually got back to her dorm, she was encouraged to go to the doctor’s office to get checked out. Unfortunately, the doctor she saw was “too flustered and too busy” to test her, Peppe said. Luckily, Ariana Ravitz, another senior on the trip, had an at-home antigen test.

“I went to her about a test…It came back positive within ten seconds,” Peppe said. 

Soon after, Peppe’s roommates and those in close proximity to her got tested as well. Afterwards, the entirety of the students got tested. About 24 of them came back positive, including Peppe’s roommate, Maia Zimmers. 

“I got tested second. I came back positive. They put us into a COVID dorm area. And we thought it was just gonna be the two of us, maybe a few other people,” Zimmers said. “We were both freaked out, or at least I was freaked out a lot, but then more and more people tested positive and [Muss] told us like 23 people [tested positive] the first night.”

After a few days of quarantine for those who tested positive, the nose swabs came around for a second time on Monday, March 7. The third round of testing then happened on Wednesday, March 9 and multiple people tested positive then. By Wednesday, a total of 45 seniors had tested positive for COVID-19.

According to Israel’s quarantine rules, you must test on the night of your fourth day, and if the result is negative, you must test again on the morning of your fifth day. If the results are negative, you are free to depart. Otherwise, your quarantine will finish on the seventh day at midnight.

That night was hectic, as all of the students who originally tested positive had to get tested again. However, none of these students’ tests came back negative, and therefore they all had to stay in an extended quarantine until Sunday, March 13.  All of the new students who tested positive that day joined the already positive group in dorming. 

The 45 students took up two floors, the first and the third, while students who tested negative took up the second. The seniors who did not have COVID-19 continued going on day trips. 

Benji Hain, the Dean of Students at AMHSI said that some decisions were made “on the fly”, as it was an unprecedented time. 

“We didn’t expect 60% of the class to test positive.” Hain said. 

While some who had been sick enjoyed this time to themselves to recuperate, they quickly became tired of quarantine and envious of those who did not have COVID-19. 

“There’s definitely some tensions between the people who have COVID and the people who don’t have COVID, because the people don’t have COVID are kind of scared, and we’re kind of annoyed because they’re still going on trips and they’re still having a really good time,” Zimmers said. “We’re very helpless and they’re not. They can go out and do things. They can buy stuff for us, drop it off stairs. While we are all cooped up in our rooms. And so there’s just a lot of tension between the two.” 

Adina Schwartz, a senior who initially tested negative but later tested positive during the second round of tests, said that it was to be expected that there was tension.

“Obviously when you have two groups split up and there’s the ideas around being positive for COVID being like you’re irresponsible in some way and stuff like that, which none of us believe,” Schwartz said.

While the students were in quarantine, the AMHSI staff had to work around the clock to ensure the programming was still running for those who had tested negative, but also that those in quarantine were being supervised as well. 

“We tried the best we could,” Hain said, “I personally didn’t sleep two nights straight. Our nurse went a week without sleeping. Our counselors worked themselves to the bone. Everyone here is doing the best they could and trying as best they could to make decisions.” 

On Sunday, March 14, the majority of those who tested positive were allowed out of quarantine.  About twenty people remained in quarantine and left over the next few days.