Amity School Supt. Dr. Jennifer Byars informed the school community on Friday, September 18, that a member of the community had tested positive for coronavirus. In her letter to parents Dr. Byars did not specify whether the affected person was a student or a teacher. All she said was that the person had been attending school four days prior, on Monday of that week.
“The affected person has been instructed to remain home in self-isolation for 10 days and has been provided with additional instructions to follow prior to returning to school,” she wrote. “Family members have also been instructed to self-quarantine and get tested.” The students were expected to return to school as of this week.
Since they were first alerted to the case through a state data site, the Orange Health Department has reached out to anyone considered a “close contact,” which typically means people who have been in the vicinity of the infected person for more than 15 minutes. That can be those listed on the sports roster of an athlete, the classmates of a student or similar groups.
“With cohorting [as is being done in the elementary and middle schools] contact tracing is much easier,” said Orange Health Director Dr. Amir Mohammad. The younger students are staying together in one classroom for much of the day, while at Amity the students are moving from class to class.
That is one reason why Dr. Mohammad is encouraging the high school to keep operating in the hybrid model, he said, with only a portion of the student body in school at a time. With fewer students in the building, the school can reduce the risk of the virus ripping through the community. He said the high school will probably have to keep teaching in the hybrid model until a vaccination is widely available.
The health department did not require the school to close as a result of that one case, and Dr. Muhammad was not aware that any other cases had occurred since then. “I hope we can prolong in-person learning as long as possible,” he said.
A few parents, after receiving the information, decided to pull their students from in-person learning and join the remote learning group instead. “We had a handful of additional requests at the high school,” Dr. Byars said.
Dr. Muhammad emphasized the responsibility of every individual to help keep the community at large moving forward. “We must all participate in this,” he said. The adults should model responsible behavior, and the students should understand that they cannot party or congregate without putting the whole community in jeopardy.
“Don’t send them to school when they are not feeling well,” he advised parents. “And when they test positive, please inform the school immediately.” The faster they can start contact tracing, the better the chance of reducing the spread.
In her letter Dr. Byars reiterated common symptoms that occur with COVID 19:
- ❑ Fever of 100.4 F;
- ❑ Chills or shaking chills;
- ❑ Uncontrolled new cough (not due to chronic condition);
- ❑ Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath;
- ❑ New loss of taste or smell.
People need to remember that we are dealing with a highly contagious virus, Dr. Muhammad said.
By Bettina Thiel – Orange Town News Correspondent