As of November 16th, Deerfield Academy had administered 14,565 COVID-19 tests to members of the community. Throughout the fall term, Deerfield reported nine positive test results. Of these nine, the school has confirmed at least three as false positives after subsequent testing. With the number of tests Deerfield has conducted and the lack of a COVID-19 test with one-hundred percent accuracy, false-positive test results are expected.
Students who receive a positive test result and their close contacts are safely isolated in the newly renovated Dewey Health Center.
Kathrine Margulis ’24 received a false-positive test result for COVID-19 on September 23rd. She shared her experience as the first student on campus to receive a positive test result for the coronavirus.
“Everything happened very quickly,” Margulis said. “I had no idea why my test came back positive because I was fine; I had no symptoms. It was just a normal day, and I was told so abruptly that I didn’t have enough time to process it before I was taken out of my room.”
Margulis also recalled not having enough time to pack before leaving to be quarantined in Dewey. Additionally, despite taking multiple saliva tests, she was not given a rapid onsite test. Margulis and her close contacts were mandated to return home for quarantine.
Deerfield has since modified its positive test protocol and now administers rapid tests immediately after a positive case is identified. “Deerfield’s system right now is so much better,” said Margulis. “Kids can actually quarantine on campus and for a much shorter period of time while determining if it’s a false positive.”
Heather Brown, the Associate Director of the Center for Service and Global Citizenship and a Health Teacher, said that Deerfield’s top priority for students staying in Dewey is their ability to participate fully in their courses. She also added that keeping students well-fed is important, stating that the school works to provide “Good food, comfort, and support from the students’ advisors and other administrators to make sure that they have everything they need.”
Elle Stearns ’23 was quarantined in Dewey after being identified as a close contact of a student who received a positive test result. Stearns shared her experience quarantining in Dewey.
“Everyday that I was there, I was woken up by the nurses who would take my temperature. The rooms are not very lived in; they’re very institutional.” Despite her initial shock at the news, she received support from those around her. She said, “A lot of people reached out asking if I wanted to go on walks.” Stearns said her favorite part about the entire experience was the food and said, “Deerfield paid for our takeout every single night.”
Taryn Boonpongmanee ’24 was also a close contact to a student who tested positive. Boonpongmanee indicated that although she knew she had stayed masked the entire time she had been around other students, she was still somewhat scared about the prospect of having COVID-19. She shared that she received puzzles to help pass the time and that the nurses would take her on a few socially distanced walks per day.
Boonpongmanee was also grateful for the support her teachers provided. She said, “Everyone was really supportive and kind about it. My math teacher offered to bring me board games, and my history teacher offered to bring me extra reading.”
Statistically speaking, false positives are bound to happen, especially with the high number of tests Deerfield has been administering. While the country continues to experience a rise in the number of COVID-19 cases, the Deerfield community can rest assured that the school administration is doing its best to keep everyone safe and provide comfort even within Dewey’s walls.