At least a dozen North Branford High School students, including nine members of the girls field hockey team, are in quarantine after a classmate tested positive for COVID-19 Friday, according to Michael Pascucilla, director of the East Shore District Health Department.
The case represents the first confirmed infection in the town’s school community since in-person classes resumed Sept. 8.
After the student notified officials of her positive test Friday morning, they began determining who might have been exposed to the virus, Pascucilla said.
“There’s been a number of students that have been put in quarantine because there’s been what we call ‘significant contact,’” Pascucilla said.
Individuals have “significant contact” with an infected person when they are within six feet of that person for at least 15 minutes, Pascucilla said.
So far, officials have not identified any staff members who had significant contact with the infected student, the health director said.
Pascucilla urged folks to continue to take precautions against the virus: practice social distancing, wear face coverings and stay home if you’re sick, he said.
The North Branford student was in school on Wednesday and Thursday, but stayed home Friday because she felt sick — and because a family member had tested positive for COVID-19, according to Pascucilla.
The quarantined students will have to engage in remote learning for two weeks, Pascucilla said, adding that the infected student will not be able to return to school for ten days.
But for the rest of the school community, in-person classes will resume next week.
Superintendent of Schools Scott Schoonmaker, who could not immediately be reached for comment, told parents the situation did not warrant a school closure, according to a message shared with the Register by multiple sources.
“Immediate action was taken to isolate, perform contact tracing and in notifying anyone that was in close contact with this individual,” the message said. “Classrooms and common areas are currently being sanitized and disinfected according to CDC guidelines.”
“I do feel that when we got the information, we jumped on it really early with Scott and his team,” Pascucilla said.
Shawna Papa Holzer, who chairs the Board of Education, shared a similar view.
“I’m pleased with how the administration handled the positive case in the high school,” she said Saturday.
Officials expected that a COVID-19 case would eventually hit the schools, according to Pascucilla.
The health director told a reporter Thursday that while there were no confirmed COVID-19 cases in the town’s schools at the time, that could change at any moment.
“Again, all this was spelled out in a plan. We knew this was gonna happen,” Pascucilla said Saturday.
One part of that plan is a triage system, where school nurses put students with “primary” COVID-19 symptoms — fever, chills, a new uncontrolled cough, shortness of breath, difficulty breathing or loss of smell or taste — go into an isolation room and are quickly escorted home by a parent, Pascucilla said.
In this case, the infected student stayed home Friday of her own accord.
“I’ll give credit to the family – they did all the things they were supposed to do. They got tested and they called the school immediately,” he said.
Because sports teams are split into cohorts, the infection will not entirely halt the girls field hockey team’s activities, according to Pascucilla, who said only the nine team members in the student’s cohort are quarantined.