COVID Strikes Community Schools

by Doug McClure

HARDWICK – COVID-19 is now in multiple area schools and schools across the state reported at least 19 new cases of the coronavirus during the week of November 8-15.

In a message Friday, Hazen Union reported one case “in the Hazen school community” and “two positive cases in the greater Woodbury community with potential close contact to Woodbury school community members.” Cabot School reported a presumptive positive on Saturday, according to a media report, and grades 4-6 were transitioned to remote learning as a result. According to the state, in addition to a single case last week at Green Mountain Technology and Career Center (GMTCC), two more cases were reported at GMTCC as of November 15. A positive test at Lamoille Union Middle School caused Lamoille North to send Lamoille Union Middle and high school students back to remote learning on Thursday and Friday while the schools underwent deep cleanings. In Lamoille South Supervisory Union, Peoples Academy (PA) said a student’s family member tested positive but, following a consultation with the Department of Health, “no further action is recommended for the PA community at this time.”

Hazen Union has responded to the case with self-administered testing today (Wednesday, November 18). Testing for staff is optional. In a letter, Superintendent Rosenberg said, “Test kits will be delivered to each school building and collected there as well” and provided a flier from the Vermont Agency of Education (AOE) with instructions on how to self-administer a COVID-19 test. The tests are nasal swab samples and will be collected and turned in for processing at the same time. Although not FDA-cleared or approved, the tests are authorized under Emergency Use, according to the flier.

In a letter on Sunday, Rosenberg said “We have alerted close contacts and asked them to quarantine, along with any household members that attend our schools either as students or staff. Although the VDH [Vermont Department of Health] is not requiring household members of families with quarantining students or staff to quarantine as well, we have taken this additional precaution to increase the likelihood of containing individual cases.”

In a letter, AOE Secretary Dan French described the testing as “surveillance testing” and said,

“We are pleased to be able to offer this testing, as we know that many of you have been requesting it. We hope that this testing may offer you increased peace of mind, but please do

not be concerned that this testing initiative reflects that you and other school staff are at particularly high risk for contracting COVID-19. School staff have been selected for this

surveillance testing as part of a larger public health strategy. School staff represent a large group of individuals in an organized setting who are proportionally distributed throughout Vermont and reflect the makeup of our communities. This makes you an ideal population to provide a clear, statewide picture of COVID-19 activity. In short, while we hope this testing will be helpful to you, please also know that by choosing to participate you are helping all Vermonters in the fight against COVID-19.”