Local health officials blamed the spike of COVID-19 cases among Cheshire High School students on a failure to follow public health precautions, not a variant of the virus.
“To our knowledge, this uptick in COVID-19 cases for the town of Cheshire is not due to the variant, it’s due to people not practicing the safe COVID-19 mitigation strategies,” said Kathryn Glendon, a public health specialist with the Chesprocott Health District.
According to Superintendent of Schools Jeff Solan, 18 high school students tested positive for COVID-19 and 61 students were quarantined after two large gatherings around the start of spring break. All of the cases were detected around the middle of the break week and contact tracing ensured that none of the students returned to the classroom after break.
It was originally believed that a COVID variant could be responsible for the wide spread as a result of those gatherings. While an individual did test positive for a variant, Glendon said that variant did not spread among the other students who were infected. Instead, she said students and other residents traveling over the break, going to large gatherings and not wearing masks, allowed the virus to spread more freely.
“People did go away during April break and maybe have traveled to places that have higher cases or letting people into their social circle,” she said.
Maura Fitzgerald, a spokesperson for the state Department of Public Health, said that since the incubation period for COVID-19 is between 10 and 14 days, the impact of any spread over spring break may not be realized right when students return. She recommended that families who travel follow guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and get tested and quarantine for seven days after returning, unless that are fully vaccinated.
“With the weather getting warmer, it’s understandable that people may want to let down their guard, but with the virus and its more contagious variants still circulating in the state, it remains important for everyone to continue practicing the three W’s: Wear masks, Wash your hands, and Watch your social distancing,” she said.
Glendon said she’s hopeful that if Cheshire residents heed those precautions, the town can return to its lower level of cases.
“We want the community to just continue their best practices and prevention … so hopefully we can get through this pandemic together,” she said.