Coronavirus updates, Featured

First few Covid cases reported at Vt. schools

Hartford High stays open after one case, Crossett Brook moves remote after two

Staff report

Hartford High School announced Sunday, Sept. 13, that a student had tested positive for Covid-19. But state health officials said the case was sufficiently isolated and that school could remain open as planned on Monday, according to Superintendent Tom DeBalsi.

“The professionals we consulted with from the Department of Health reviewed the potential risk factors for others at the high school that may have come into contact with the student who tested positive,” DeBalsi wrote in a letter to the school community Sunday evening. “Based on this review, the Department of Health did not identify any ongoing risk or any need for further intervention or contact tracing at this time. They also indicated that the strategies that we have in place, including our hybrid schedule that allows for our

students to be physically distanced in our classrooms, greatly minimize the risk for close contact, as they define it.”

DeBalsi’s email communications furnish a timeline: The school district learned of the positive test on Saturday evening, the student’s physician reported the positive test to the Vermont Department of Health and the school was cleaned and disinfected per Health Department guidance.

“While we certainly had hoped, for many reasons, not to have a positive test, this was not unanticipated,” DeBalsi wrote.

Hartford High is not the first Vermont school to report a case of Covid-19. Crossett Brook Middle School, in Duxbury, moved to remote learning this week after two students, a 5th grader and a 7th grader, tested positive last week.

Those two students had attended school in-person on Tuesday, Sept. 8 – the first day of school – and afterward tested positive for the virus. The Duxbury school serves about 300 students in grades 5 to 8.

“I know many are worried about the three student cases announced yesterday,” said Gov. Phil Scott in the press conference Tuesday, Sept. 15. “But as Dr. Levine will cover, the Health Dept. epi team has a proven record of containing spread and we have strong protocols at schools to limit risk… we knew there would be cases at schools, but we are fully prepared to contain them so in-person instruction can quickly — but most importantly safely — resume.”

Scott said that while 70% of Vermont schools are currently offering remote learning three or more days per week, pediatricians and other heath experts agree that some level of in-person instruction is extremely valuable for students and he hopes that more students will have that opportunity more of the week as the fall semesters proceeds.

Dr. Mark Levine, Vermont Commissioner of Health added that 23 close contacts had been identified associated with the cases at Crossett Brook and all had been contacted. He said the Hartford case was still under investigation but, thus far, no close contacts were identified.

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