All I want for Christmas is . . . Antibodies


Alyyah Malick

A spike in SJS Covid cases over the holidays necessitated modified celebrations. Senior Afraaz Malick, Executive Managing Editor, had to distance from his family on Christmas day.

Lucy Walker and Ellison Albright

Three weeks before winter break began, the boosted were considered invincible. For some, it was the first time since the start of the pandemic that they could clear their minds of worry, see their extended family or embrace an optimistic outlook on the future. 

Upper School Spanish teacher Jessica MacMurtrie was one of those people; triple vaxxed and ready to enjoy winter break. The day she returned from the Freshman Retreat, she felt a faint tickle at the back of   her throat. She ignored it but continued to feel under the weather, developing a headache and fatigue. Thinking she had a cold, she sent her husband to buy some over-the-counter medicine. 

“Not once did I think it was Covid-19,” MacMurtrie said.

After calling his mother, a doctor, MacMurtrie’s husband realized that his wife’s symptoms matched those of Covid, and he decided to purchase an at-home test. 

It was positive. 

Because of the unreliable nature of a 15-minute rapid test, MacMurtrie surmised that the result was faulty. She took a second test. 

Positive again.

Then she began canceling holiday plans. First, she called her sister, who was about to fly in from Michigan. MacMurtrie had been looking forward to her visit as it was the first time since March of 2020 that she was going to see her family. Over the phone, MacMurtrie’s sister advised her to get a PCR test.

After a trek through the rain to a testing kiosk in Hermann park, which turned out to be closed, MacMurtrie’s sense of urgency increased. Finally, a PCR test issued the final verdict: positive. 

“I told the woman that was taking my vitals that I had tested positive twice at home, but there are false positives. Then she said there’s no such thing as a false positive,” she said.

The first annual MacMurtrie holiday gathering was officially canceled. Because she had symptoms for several days before the diagnosis, she only quarantined for about four days. By that Saturday, she was symptom-free and met outside with her brother at a deserted Galveston beach for a Christmas celebration.

Others were not as lucky.

Senior Tanner Watson only tested for Covid as the final step in preparing for his holiday vacation plans. He put the thought of a positive result out of his mind, waiting for that little banner at the top of his phone to tell him what he already knew so he could swipe it away and continue enjoying Christmas Eve with his family. That did not happen. 

Although not pleased about contracting the virus, Watson is thankful he was not affected by the shortage of Covid tests. Many struggled to secure an appointment or find an at-home rapid test, but Watson had scheduled the test weeks in advance. 

The rest of Watson’s holiday experience did not play out as he had hoped; instead of partaking in Christmas Eve traditions, he played video games alone in his room. Christmas day was devoid of all expected festivities, instead spent celebrating awkwardly at home. 

“I went outside and I sat about 12 feet away while the family sat over on the other side,” Watson said. “That’s not usual.” 

As for New Year’s Eve, Watson admits he did not stay up to watch the change to 2022. The new year would be there when he woke up the next morning to continue watching his favorite “Hamlet” adaptations. 

Watson expressed his gratitude to the SJS medical advisory team for mitigating the effect of Omicron on the Upper School. 

“I trust [the team] to make the right decisions,” he said. 

In the wake of the contagious new variant, both he and MacMurtrie are confident that vaccines will help keep the School safe.

“Get your vaccine,” MacMurtrie said.