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4 More COVID-19 Cases Reported in District Schools

Sources of Infection Are Outside of School District and School Buildings
by Robert Stewart
While the numbers do not reflect a mini-outbreak of positive COVID-19 cases in the school district, school officials have reported that two more students in the school district have tested positive and that two staff members have also tested positive for the COVID-19 virus. These recent cases follow an incident nearly two weeks earlier when a high school student tested positive for COVID-19 and it brings the total number of positive cases reported in the school district to five.
     School Superintendent Dr. Laura Chesson and School Committee Chair Marlena Gilbert have emphasized that the sources of infection for those five cases have been outside of activity within the school district and its buildings. Groton Board of Health is following the process of contact tracing of these cases but could not release any details or information in regards to that contact tracing.
     Groton Board of Health Chairman Jason Weber said that all positive cases of COVID-19 in Massachusetts are reported through the MAVEN system. This system facilitates collection of cases and management of contact
tracing. Weber said that positive test results are first reported to local Boards of Health, which can then perform contact tracing themselves or delegate this work to the State’s Contact Tracing Collaborative (CTC). Because timing is important, cases that aren’t picked up locally are automatically sent to the CTC within a short window so there are no misses. Weber noted that as Nashoba (Associated Boards of Health of which Groton is a member) gets busier more cases will end up at the CTC. Weber also noted that personal information obtained through contact tracing is not public information.
     Of the four new positive cases reported in the school district, two were students enrolled in different learning plans. One is a student at the high school enrolled in the district’s hybrid learning plan where students attend school in-person for two days and conduct studies remotely the remaining three days a week. The other is a middle school student enrolled in a fully remote learning plan where there is no in-person learning in the school buildings. The other two positive cases involve staff members working in the school district. School officials could not comment on the location of the buildings where the two staff members worked. In a memo to parents, caregivers and guardians,               Superintendent Chesson stated, “Our initial contact tracing efforts indicate this student was not infected through viral transmission within the Groton-Dunstable public schools.” As what happened with the first student who tested positive, Chesson said the building was thoroughly sanitized with a focus on areas that were frequented by the student.
     Again, as in the case of the first student who tested positive a couple weeks ago, Chesson said people who were in close contact with that student were notified privately and affected students were provided with remote learning plans to continue their studies while in required quarantined at home.
     The four new cases reported in the School District come as some town officials have expressed concerns about recent trends in the number of COVID-19 positive cases being reported community- wide. Groton’s Town Manager Mark Haddad commented at a recent Select Board meeting that Groton may be placed in a higher risk category because of an increase in the number of positive cases being reported in town. According to data compiled by the state for all communities in Massachusetts, Groton is still a low-risk community for transmission and infection of the COVID-19 virus. In the most recent two-week reporting period from Oct. 4 to Oct. 17, Groton experienced five positive cases of COVID-19 out of 1,215 tests performed during that period. With five positive cases resulting from 1,215 tests, Groton had a positivity rate of .41 percent – amongst the lowest in the Nashoba Valley area.
     School Committee Chair Marlena Gilbert said the new cases reported in the school district will not alter the District’s plans to continue with hybrid learning plans which include in-person instruction in the classroom. Gilbert said,
     “(These recent cases will have) no effect on the hybrid learning plan as we are still listed as a low risk community.” In previous comments Gilbert said the state would not consider any changes in the learning plans at Groton-Dunstable until there are three weeks of data from the town while it is categorized as a high risk community in what is called the “Red zone.”
     Gilbert said that early indications from contact tracing showed that none of the close contacts with the affected students or staff has resulted in a positive case. “What that tells us is that our protocols within our district are holding strong and doing what they are intended to do,” Gilbert stated. Gilbert then addressed all residents
of Groton and Dunstable to be vigilant of safety protocols as winter approaches. She stated,
     “On behalf of the entire School Committee, I ask our parents, students and community members to do their very best to practice social distancing and all other safety protocols so we can muscle through these upcoming colder months in a manner that allows our schools and local businesses to remain open in a safe manner.”
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