PM: EGHS announced its first COVID-19 case, a student. According to Principal Ken Hopkins, the high school student was exposed “during after school hours,” so RIDOH said there’s no need for more school-based contact-tracing or quarantining at this time.
AM: Cole Principal Dave Tober said Tuesday morning the RIDOH had contacted all the people who they felt should be contacted regarding the virus case identified Monday. “If you did not receive a call your child was not deemed to be in close contact with our COVID-positive student. School will resume normally today.”
Supt. Alexis Meyer confirmed Monday the district had its first confirmed case of COVID-19 since in-person school began in mid-September. The only information so far is it is a student at Cole Middle School.
Meyer said the district turned over seating charts to DOH and the health department would take it from there, determining who from the school would be deemed a “close contact,” and doing extensive contact tracing with people from school but also those the student might have been in contact with when not at school.
On Facebook Monday, some parents expressed concern. In response to one comment from a concerned parent, Megan Ranney, an EG parent and emergency department doctor at RI Hospital, responded: “This will happen many times this fall. The trick is to stop it from spreading. This is why masks and stable pods matter!”
Students at Cole and EGHS are attending in-person school in a hybrid model. Mondays are distance learning days for all those students, then half of the students go to school on Tuesdays and Wednesdays and the other half attend on Thursdays and Fridays. Elementary students will start full in-person tomorrow, after a staggered start.
The theory behind the different approaches was that to keep middle and high school students in school five days a week, the students would need to stay with one class –one group – the entire week. As it is now, with less than half the normal population at Cole and EGHS on any given Tuesday through Friday, classes can be smaller and, ideally, safer.
Here’s the email Meyer sent out to the Cole community Monday afternoon:
Dear Staff and Parents/Guardians of Children at Cole Middle School:
Today the Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH) was notified that a student at Cole Middle School tested positive for COVID-19. In turn, the principal, school nurse, and myself were contacted. The administration has been working closely with RIDOH’s COVID-19 Unit to determine who may have had close contact with the student who tested positive during the period of time when the student would be considered infectious. A close contact is defined as a person(s) who was within 6 feet of an infected person (with or without a mask) for at least 15 minutes or having unprotected direct contact with secretions of a person with confirmed COVID-19 during the infectious period.
People spread COVID-19 through small droplets of saliva that get into the air around them when they talk. Someone close by can breathe in those droplets and contract COVID-19. Even when wearing a face mask, a person with COVID-19 could spread the infection to someone close by. Every person who had close contact with the student with COVID-19 will get a call from RIDOH today with information and instructions about quarantine. Close contacts must quarantine (stay at home) for 14 days after the day they were in close contact with the student with COVID-19.
Even if a person is not a close contact, all staff and students should watch for symptoms of COVID-19. Symptoms of COVID-19 can include a cough, fever and chills, muscle and body aches, headache, runny nose or stuffy nose, sore throat, nausea or vomiting, diarrhea, fatigue, and recent loss of taste or smell. Children usually experience symptoms that are milder than adults.
Anyone with symptoms of COVID-19 should stay home from school, notify the school of their symptoms, and contact their healthcare provider for advice. Staff or students with symptoms can call the PreK-12 COVID-19 Test Scheduling Service at 844-857-1814 to schedule a test.
However, out of an abundance of caution, those without symptoms may also call to schedule a test. You do not have to pay for testing. Even if you don’t have health insurance, you can get a test. The classrooms, bathrooms, and other spaces used by the students and staff will be cleaned before students/staff return in accordance with guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Should you have any questions, please contact Principal Tober at 398-1212. For additional information about COVID-19, visit: https://health.ri.gov/covid/.