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Two additional COVID-19 cases reported in Dare schools, emergency Board of Ed meeting called

In an email to Dare County Schools families Thursday evening, Superintendent John Farrelly reported two additional lab-confirmed COVID-19 cases among district schools: one at Manteo Elementary School and one at Cape Hatteras Elementary School.

“Upon initiation of contact tracing, the Dare County Department of Health and Human Services has identified over fifty (50) new direct contacts in these schools who will begin quarantining immediately following NC Department of Health and Human Services guidelines. Twenty-five (25%) of the entire CHES staff is included in that figure,” stated Farrelly

Cape Hatteras Elementary will be closed Friday, November 13 for cleaning and sanitization.

According to Farrelly, “Dare County Schools currently has three hundred and seventy-nine (379) students and sixty-nine (69) staff members who are direct contacts and are in quarantine. Most of the sixty-nine (69) staff members are teachers. We have had 17 school positive associated cases since schools reopened on 10/26/20.”

Also included in the email was an announcement that an emergency meeting of the Dare County Board of Education has been called for 4 p.m. Friday at First Flight High School. The meeting can be heard via YouTube and a link may be found at daretolearn.org.

Farrelly also included the following information from the Dare County Department of Health and Human Services in response to questions received by DCS:

  1. Who makes the determination of who is a direct contact when a laboratory-confirmed case of COVID-19 has occurred? The Dare County Department of Health and Human Services determines who the direct contacts are that need to be quarantined. This is not a role of the Dare County Schools administration.
  2. Can you share more specific information regarding contact [tracing]? The Dare County Department of Health and Human Services is following the CDC and NCDHHS guidance related to contact tracing. Contact tracing of direct contacts starts 48 hours prior to the onset of symptoms for the positive patient (or 48 hours prior to testing date of the positive person if they are asymptomatic). So, if an individual started with symptoms on the 6th, we would have to go back and identify all direct contacts from the 4th, 5th, 6th, etc. until which time the positive person was isolated. Their end of quarantine date for the direct contact is then based on the last date of exposure.
  3. Why are we quarantining an entire classroom for one positive? Because of the prolonged time students are in classes together and the inability to ensure that 6 ft. or more was maintained between students and staff at all times. If a laboratory confirmed positive case is determined to have been in class during their contagion period the entire class is quarantined as part of the CDC’s and NCDHHS guidance to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.
  4. Why does my student need to quarantine if they were wearing a mask the whole time?While the masks being used by the general public are certainly helpful to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, they are not 100% effective. Masks are most effective when worn by the positive individual; you are actually protecting others when you wear your mask. Therefore, there is no way to verify the effectiveness of the masks being used or that individuals were wearing the mask properly at time of exposure. The CDC guidance states that quarantine is “irrespective of whether the person with COVID-19 or the contact was wearing a mask…”

“In closing, please keep members of our school community who are ill in your thoughts. We wish everyone the best of health and a speedy recovery for those who have symptoms,” stated Farrelly. “I would implore everyone to keep your children home if they have any potential COVID-19 related symptoms. This goes for staff members as well. Please also continue to be vigilant in following the 3 W’s (Wear, Wait and Wash).”

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