The EG School District sent out this letter via email Friday:
Important Message to the East Greenwich School District from Health Director Nicole Alexander-Scott, MD, MPH, and Superintendent Alexis Meyer:
To the East Greenwich School District Community: As you are likely aware, we recently experienced an issue at Meadowbrook Farms Elementary School where several students received positive COVID-19 test results. After receiving negative test results subsequently, families expressed concern about the testing.
Today, Dr. Alexander-Scott and I want to reassure the East Greenwich community that Meadowbrook Farms Elementary School staff correctly implemented Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH) and Rhode Island Department of Education (RIDE) protocols for testing and reporting. These protocols— along with mitigation measures such as isolation and quarantine, masking and social distancing—remain essential to keeping students, teachers, staff, and families safe and to maintain in-person education.
As an overview, the East Greenwich School District opted to participate in asymptomatic surveillance testing for COVID-19. Asymptomatic testing is a key component of the State’s strategy to identify infected people so they can be separated from others while they are contagious; this helps to reduce the spread of COVID-19 and prevent outbreaks. Rhode Island’s COVID-19 numbers are decreasing, but new daily cases remain high overall. RIDOH is also concerned about a predicted increase in cases if a more infectious variant takes hold in the state.
As part of the asymptomatic surveillance testing program, school personnel in East Greenwich received training from the Rhode Island National Guard on how to perform rapid antigen testing. Participation by the school district, students, and staff is completely voluntary.
On February 9, 59 students and 23 staff at the Meadowbrook Farms Elementary School were tested for COVID-19 using a rapid antigen test called BinaxNOW. Nine students in a second-grade classroom tested positive. Staff at the school followed RIDOH/RIDE protocols for reporting cases of those testing positive as well as their school close contacts. RIDOH followed established protocols for case investigation and contact tracing, directing those testing positive on any COVID-19 test to isolate and their close contacts to quarantine.
The test results pointed to possible early identification of a classroom outbreak. Initial interviews with the students’ families found two students experiencing mild symptoms of COVID-19. Some students had socialized together outside of school without strict adherence to mask wearing or social distancing. Though not recommended by RIDOH, several of the students who received a positive test result received additional testing in the subsequent days that showed negative test results.
On February 11, RIDOH clinical staff specializing in K-12 cases and outbreaks met with school testing and leadership staff to review in detail the testing protocols and processes in place during the February 9 testing. The tests were procured, administered, and results obtained exactly according to the product instructions. Other than the nine students testing positive, 73 people at the school tested over the course of February 9 tested negative. Test cards are placed in biowaste containers and discarded immediately after results are read, so we are not able to analyze the possibility, however small, of a defect in the testing materials.
On February 14, RIDOH clinical staff phoned all nine students to assess their status and provide additional individual case management for isolation and quarantine. We are pleased that the Meadow Brook Elementary School students are feeling well and can resume in-school education and activities quickly.
We are aware the confusion regarding test results at Meadowbrook Farms Elementary School may have added to the anxiety and challenges people face when someone tests positive and must isolate and close contacts must quarantine. School staff and RIDOH clinical staff acted quickly to confirm the test and mitigation protocols were appropriate. RIDOH staff have been in regular contact with the families to ensure they are safe, and able to protect the safety of other students, staff, and the community. RIDOH will continue to monitor patterns of test positivity at testing sites that may indicate quality issues with rapid antigen testing materials.
The health and safety of our residents is of the utmost importance. Together, we will continue to be vigilant in our efforts to contain the spread of the virus in our communities and with dedicated testing and support, ensure schools remain safe and open for all children.
As always, thank you for taking personal steps to protect yourself, your family, and your community.
Supt. Alexis Meyer
Dept. of Health Director Nicole Alexander-Scott