COVID-19 masking protocols change with positive rate ‘well under 1%’


Connor Tang

Eric Chang ’25 and Avery Kim ’25 pose maskless in the Horn Commons following new guidelines.

In an email sent by the Community Health Office Wednesday, Feb. 16, it was announced to the Harvard-Westlake (HW) community that the school’s COVID-19 protocols regarding masking would be reduced.

About a month ago, the HW Community Office required that higher protection masks (KN95, KN94, etc.) be worn by students and staff. This was implemented following a 8% positive rate of the HW community, and to mitigate infections after winter break.

“The KN95 [mask], though sometimes a little tight, are overall a benefit to our community in preventing spread of [COVID-19] while also reassuring the community,” Avery Kim ‘25 said. “I still try to take precautions and keep my mask on most of the day.”

Following the new email, students like Kim can still choose to wear higher protection masks if they choose. But according to the new protocols, students and faculty can now wear any mask that covers their nose and mouth, regardless of material.

”The percent positive rate has come down substantially since the early days of January,” Head of Communications Ari Engelberg ’89 said. “We are now well under 1% positive on our weekly, individual PCR testing.”

The large decrease in case positivity rates at HW is attributed to not only the higher protection of masking, but the increased testing protocols. Instead of pool testing, which is less accurate in locating individual cases, students, faculty, and staff have been required to take their own PCR tests, which receives individual results within a day. In addition, all students, faculty, and staff eligible were required to be vaccinated in order to be on campus, in addition to a booster shot that was required by Feb. 1.

“The HW community is over 99% fully vaccinated and [approximately] 95% boosted,” Engelberg said in an email. “Those who are not vaccinated and/or boosted have documented exemptions and/or are not yet eligible for booster shots.”