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Webb Canyon Chronicle

The Student News Site of The Webb Schools

Webb Canyon Chronicle

The Student News Site of The Webb Schools

Webb Canyon Chronicle

The importance of information: why Webb should be transparent about COVID

Narineh Madikians
After the return from winter break, many classes became emptier and quieter with some students participating online. In one math class, most students, including Lam Tran (‘24), had to Zoom with groupmates who are under quarantine or isolation to work on problems. From the absence of familiar faces in the classroom to the cancellation of sports games, it is not difficult to tell the omicron variant has greatly impacted life at Webb.

After our return from winter break, positive COVID cases have surged, causing many students to feel anxious about the new Omicron variant. Given the high volume of community members who recently tested positive, the medical advisory board deemed it unnecessary to give continual updates to the entire community, like how they used to do. Under the current policy, only students identified as close contacts and under higher risks (such as unvaccinated members) are notified of new cases.  

“There isn’t really a benefit of notifying someone unless there’s a known specific contact,” said Melanie Bauman, Director of Counseling and Health Education. “If we know that someone has a medical issue that puts them at a higher risk, then those people would get notifications. Unless there is a major policy change or something that puts us at risk, or unless we are seeing something that’s happening within our community, we wouldn’t send updates.” 

Since the return from winter break, there have been three total community notifications in emails sent by Theresa Smith, associate head of schools. The first update was sent on Wednesday, January 5th, which seemed to be a regular notice informing the community about the positive cases on that day. Then, the second and third updates were sent on Friday, January 7th and Friday, January 14th indicating the total number of COVID cases throughout the week. The school released no information in the 7-day window between the two Fridays. 

The major argument Webb is making against releasing the exact number of COVID cases is by citing the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA). HIPAA is a federal law protecting a patient’s right not to have sensitive medical information disclosed without the patient’s consent or knowledge.  

However, according to United States Department of Education, a school can disclose the number of students who have COVID to parents and students in the community without prior written consent, as long as the information the school shares does not identify any individual student. 

Therefore, while Webb cannot reveal exactly which members of the community test positive, it is important to communicate frequently with students.  

With more frequent communication and accurate information, students can make smarter decisions with a better understanding of the COVID situation on campus. Students can have the information needed to take corresponding precautions and evaluate what kind of masks to wear and whether to eat outside based on the level of risks. 

Moreover, information can not only relieve stress, but also prevent rumors and dispel misinformation. 

As the school is only currently releasing weekly updates on Friday regarding positive cases, it is inevitable that students seek information in alternative ways. The reality is that news travels fast at Webb. In a tight-knit 150-acre community with 395 students, rumors —whether accurate or inaccurate— can spread within hours. While throughout last week, Webb had been keeping the number of positive cases confidential to reduce school-wide anxiety and panic, the decision is, in reality, fueling misinformation.  

The administration used to be transparent with students by sending out community notices whenever a member tested positive, and Webb has made some attempts to be transparent, like the assemblies we had shortly after arriving on campus. Upper administrators talked about the COVID protocols Webb is enforcing due to the recent surge, but without proper information, students are left to spread guesswork and gossip.  

By being transparent in disclosing the number of cases and giving students and parents regular updates, Webb can provide community members with the proper information to gauge their worries, which will relieve any unnecessary anxiety.  

Without transparency, Webb also imposes shame on those with COVID. Right now, we are avoiding the topic instead of directly confronting it. As a result, the current narrative of COVID on campus makes it almost taboo to discuss our current situations. In order for students to feel safe, it is not only important to inform us of the big picture, but also normalize the discussions surrounding the pandemic. 

The more open and transparent we are about COVID, the safer our community can be. 

Correction Statement: In the originally published article, we mistakenly identified Webb’s student population as 406. It is in fact 395.

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About the Contributors
Nichola Monroe, Chief Editor of Features
If you’re looking for a Webb big sister, Nichola Monroe (‘22) is the person for you. An experienced co-chair of the VWS dorm prefect council, she is always looking for ways to lend her knowledge to newer students both in the dorm and outside. As a returning member of the Webb Canyon Chronicle and this year’s Chief Editor of Features, she is excited to write engaging articles, share her journalism experiences, and help others thrive. Over this last summer, Nichola fostered her leadership skills at a summer camp in Maine. She lived in a cabin with younger girls and taught them how to make ceramics and jewelry, sewing, and other important life skills. Although Nichola usually resides in Dana Point, she is currently living at Webb and hopes to initiate new dorm activities for other boarders in Jameson to enjoy. Also an activist, Nichola cares deeply about current issues like climate change and sustainability. When she’s not helping other people, you can most likely find her outdoors, whether it's dancing, walking her dog at the beach, knitting under a tree, or simply just doing somersaults in front of her dorm. Favorite song: "Stay for the Summer" by Logan & Isabel
Sunny Yu, Editor-in-Chief
Sunny Yu (‘22) is a prime example of the protagonist personality. As a natural leader, she is active, thoughtful, caring, and serves as the Editor-in-Chief of the WCC, a member of the Chapel Council, the captain of the varsity cross-country team, and a founding member of Webb’s Breakfast literary magazine. Sunny is also vocal and passionate about the enforcement of social justice and representation of marginalized groups: at the WCC, she utilizes journalism as a tool to shed light on many controversial issues, never shying away from the ability to make a lasting impact. During the weekends, you can often find her on a run to “The Spot,” a smoothie shop, playing soccer on Chandler, and occasionally annoying the library staff for borrowing too many books, such as her favorite, Waiting for the Barbarians, a wonderful allegory on human relationships. As a protagonist, she finds joy in guiding young journalists to grow into their best selves. This year, Sunny hopes that the WCC can continue covering important topics and spark conversations while bringing people laughter and keeping them informed. Favorite song: "Sunflower Feelings" by Kuzu Mellow
Leeann Shu, Chief Copy Editor
You might usually associate Leo with being supercilious, selfish, and self-centered, but Leeann Shu (‘22) exemplifies the opposite of these traitsLeeann is supportive, trustworthy, humble, and sociable. In her free time, Leeann enjoys relaxing with friends, and this year, she hopes to re-bond with friends that she has not seen or talked to for a while. At school, Leeann actively interacts with the community by taking various leadership roles: a day student prefect, an admission fellow, chief editor of the yearbook, and Chief Copy Editor of the Webb Canyon Chronicle. As Editor of Technology last year and a head editor this year, she continues writing for the WCC because of her enthusiasm for the publication and writing. Her personalitcontributes to her success in the newsroom because journalism requires her to be risk-taker while searching for interviewees, and an active listener to understand other’s thoughtsThis year, her goal is to assist younger members of the WCC as they grow and shine in their writing. In addition to helping others, she wants to have more confidence in herself and seek more opportunities to utilize her writing skills for the betterment of the publication. Not being afraid of any type of failure is what she will keep in mind to help her progress toward her goals.  Favorite song: "Laugh Now, Cry Later" by Drake
Cathy Wang, Editor-in-Chief
Cathy Wang (‘22), an international boarding student from Shanghai, returns to Webb this year not only as the Editor-in-Chief for the WCC- but also as a dorm prefect and admissions fellow. She is excited to be back on campus, taking new classes and reconnecting with the Webb community. So far, Cathy’s favorite course that she has taken at Webb has been Advanced Studies Fascism with Ms. Fisher, which she enjoyed because of how the course related to current issues that she cares about, such as education and gender inequality. These are just a few of the topics that Cathy hopes to shed some more light on, both via the WCC and in person. Outside of classes, Cathy enjoys playing badminton and tennis, reading Latin literature or magical realism, and taking occasional trips to the Claremont Village. Additionally, you might also find her sipping her daily coffee or eating any kind of Japanese food. As the world slowly comes back from the pandemic and Webb shifts to in-person learning, Cathy hopes for the WCC to serve as a facilitator for the Webb community in fostering much-needed connections between people. Favorite song: "I Lost A Friend" by Finneas
Sharon Xu, Editor of News
Unlike her favorite animal, the panda, Sharon Xu (‘22) is a go-getter and always tries her best. An amicable, assiduous South Hutch prefect that dances, Sharon is truly one of a kind. She is also the Editor of News for the Webb Canyon Chronicle and strives for informative, intellectual, and imaginative news articles for all of Webb to read. Sharon can often be found hanging out at the Appleby Lawn or studying in the library. Her favorite book is “One Last Stop,” in which Jane, the main character, finds herself on an unescapable train and makes a home for herself there. Just like Jane, Sharon is encapsulated by the “Webb web” and makes the most out of every situation she finds herself in. For example, when faced with the terrifying prospect of “math,” Sharon, despite many setbacks, works tirelessly and overcomes this hurdle. This work ethic translates to every aspect of her life. Whether it is authoring compelling articles for journalism or taking care of her two cats, Sushi and Doctor Spencer Reed, Sharon will always put her all into it. Favorite song: "How You Get the Girl" by Taylor Swift
Narineh Madikians, Public Editor
Narineh Madikians (23) is coming back to Webb for her senior year as a completely new person. Along with her new position as the Webb Canyon Chronicle's new Public Editor, Narineh is also a head peer advisor and a member of the VWS varsity volleyball team. Even though her senior year is full of change, Narineh still loves humanities courses from past years such as Advanced Studies Creative Nonfiction. She encourages everyone at Webb to take this class as it has made a significant impact on her writing techniques. This year, she is focusing on the future while also trying to stay present at the moment, hoping to make as many lasting memories as she can before she leaves for college. After a long and busy week at school, Narineh uses her weekends to recharge. She loves to go out with her friends or stay at home and watch movies with her parents and three dogs: Jeckie, Dash, and Rex. At the end of the day, Narineh unwinds by listening to her favorite artists such as Mac Miller, Frank Ocean, and Childish Gambino. Narineh will use her new and old experiences throughout Webb, the WCC, and outside life, to make her senior year unforgettable.   Favorite Song: "Crimson and Clover" by Tommy James and The Shondells

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