DENTON — Caroline County Public Schools announced Sunday morning, Oct. 18, that Greensboro Elementary School will be closed to students and most staff for a two-week period, beginning Monday, Oct. 19, through Friday, Oct. 30, due to a COVID-19 outbreak at the school.
With four positive cases at Greensboro Elementary last week, the school system asked the health department to provide testing to all staff members on Wednesday, Oct. 14. Over the weekend, six more staff members received positive test results, spurring the decision to temporarily shut down in-person learning.
Superintendent Patty Saelens said in a statement, “We have made this difficult decision in an effort to reduce the opportunity for spread of the virus, and because the number of people in quarantine means we cannot safely staff the building. While bringing students back for in-person learning is vitally important, it cannot come at the expense of ensuring a healthy and safe environment.”
Greensboro Elementary Principal Dawn Swann notified families via email and School Messenger Sunday.
She wrote, “I certainly understand the level of anxiety that receiving this message is going to cause for all of you, and I truly wish I didn’t have to send it. However, the safety and health of our students and staff is our highest priority, and we will continue to do everything we can to ensure the safest environment possible.”
For the next two weeks, students will continue instruction with their teachers through distance learning. Many students have received Kajeet SmartSpots to enable connectivity. If a student is unable to connect to the internet with the Kajeet, families are asked to contact the GES office at 410-479-3885 to request a paper packet. Packets will be available on Tuesday, Oct. 20.
“As cases of COVID-19 are on the rise in general, please remain vigilant. Monitor yourself and your family for symptoms, which include fever, cough and shortness of breath,” Swann wrote to families. She urged anyone with symptoms to contact a medical provider and asked they notify her of any positive COVID-19 case results.
The school Wellness Center collected staff specimens for 95 tests Wednesday, according to Deputy Health Officer Laura Patrick, R.N. The health department sent them to the state lab for testing. By Monday, all results were back with just the additional six positives, Patrick said.
Sandi Barry, CCPS public information officer, confirmed a second positive COVID-19 case at Lockerman Middle School. There are no plans for testing there at this time, she said.
So far, all of the positives reported have been staff members; no student positives have been reported, and Barry said they weren’t aware of any.
As standard protocol, the school system is working with the Caroline County Health Department to identify close contacts of the newly confirmed cases who should quarantine for 14 days.
Even people who don’t show symptoms of COVID-19 should be tested if they’ve been exposed to the new coronavirus, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
New research has found 20% coronavirus infections are asymptomatic but are still contagious. And in some cases, symptoms may take up to two weeks to present. Infected people spread the virus without knowing, or before knowing, that they’re infected.
The CDC recommends a person be tested for the virus if they have “been in close contact, such as within 6 feet of a person with documented SARS-CoV-2 infection for at least 15 minutes and do not have symptoms.”
Patrick said the health department encourages everyone to continue following the safety guidelines: wash your hands frequently; check your temperature; practice social distancing; and wear a mask. Those actions are vital in stopping the spread of the coronavirus, she said.
Information regarding CCPS protocol for suspected and positive COVID-19 cases and a weekly positive case report may be found at https://www.carolineschools.org/back-to-school/covid-19-positive-case-communication/. Barry said the dashboard will be updated weekly on Friday.
Free drive-thru COVID-19 testing continues to be offered for Caroline residents from 1 to 3 p.m. Tuesdays at the Health and Public Services Building, 403 S. 7th St., Denton. Thirty-five people were tested last week and six of those came back positive, Patrick said.
As of Monday, Caroline County reported 704 cumulative COVID-19 cases with 9,672 residents having been tested — 1,167 of those tests were done by the local health department. The county’s seven-day positivity rate was 2.6%. Eight local residents have died from the coronavirus.