Two social gatherings over spring break have led to a surge in coronavirus cases among students at Cheshire High School.
An individual with a COVID-19 variant is believed to have attended the gatherings, leading to 18 high school students being infected, according to a presentation by School Superintendent Jeffrey Solan during a Board of Education meeting on Thursday, April 22.
“We had a significant uptick in COVID positive students at CHS over the April break,” Solan said. “Unfortunately there were two social gatherings that occurred very early in the break — one of them was actually the Friday before the break — with a positive individual with a variant. There was significant spread.”
All of the students who tested positive had been identified by the middle of spring break and did not return to classrooms at the start of last week. Another 61 students were under quarantine as of last Thursday, which includes some who came into contact with family members or had exposure outside of the two gatherings.
Though there were concerns about gatherings and travel during spring break, Solan said the greatest focus is that families and students continue to follow mitigation strategies like wearing masks, practicing social distancing, avoiding large groups and washing hands.
“Sometimes all it takes is a couple of people to let their guard down,” he said, especially as COVID variants with higher potential to spread become more prevalent.
Solan said cases among students are spreading due to events outside of school and the precautions put in place in collaboration with the Chesprocott Health District have prevented the virus from spreading in classrooms. Since students and staff have been diligent with mitigation strategies, he believes schools are one of the safest places for students.
“We’re really proud of the way our kids have handled the pandemic with the mask wearing … This was a relatively minor blip on the radar that we’re looking forward to moving past and getting back to normal,” he said.
Board of Education Chair Anthony Perugini said contact tracing has shown large gatherings outside of school are the main way the virus has spread among students.
“The good news though is that I think the (contact) tracing, the protocols, the social distancing, the masks, the social distancing that has been in place since day one of school has been working,” he said.
Though vaccination rates are climbing, Perugini said it’s important that there’s not a false sense of security.
“I think we have made good progress overall, but let's be diligent as a community,” he said.