Monomoy High Student Tests Positive For COVID-19

By: Tim Wood

New signs affixed to the doors of Monomoy Regional High School alert students, staff, and visitors to the new mask and social distancing protocol, in keeping with the school’s reopening plan. Kat Szmit Photo

Positive Cases Trigger COVID Testing For Fire Department, Harbormaster Staff

A student at Monomoy Regional High School has tested positive for COVID-19.

According to Superintendent of Schools Scott Carpenter, school officials were notified of the positive test Friday night. The student does not appear to have contracted the virus at school, he said. Students and staff who were in close contact or in classrooms with the student have been contacted and are expected to quarantine for 14 days.

“Our first responsibility is to keep our students and staff safe, and we have been preparing for this scenario as part of our reopening planning knowing that a positive case in a school has always been a matter of when, not if,” Carpenter said in an email to parents Saturday afternoon. “We have a comprehensive plan that involves sanitizing the school, informing families whose students were at risk of exposure or in close contact, and supporting the affected family as they navigate this stressful experience.”

The positive student is reportedly an eighth grader. Because of privacy laws, Carpenter said he could not say what town the student was from.

But on Sunday, the town of Chatham issued a news release saying that a seasonal resident returning to Chatham from out of state had tested positive, and that individual is a relative of a Monomoy High School student, who subsequently tested positive for COVID-19.

The seasonal Chatham resident who tested positive was also a relative of a Chatham Fire Department employee. While that fire employee tested negative for COVID-19, “out of an abundance of caution,” the town will conduct testing of fire department staff on Monday, Sept. 21.

The town will also test the staff of the harbormaster department, after two seasonal staff members notified the town that they tested positive after having attended a non-work related event off-Cape. The individuals are now quarantining at their homes in Harwich and Chelmsford, and contact tracing is underway for people who were in contact with them.

Students and teachers in six classrooms are quarantining "out of an abundance of caution," Carpenter said. He did not have an exact number of students and teachers impacted.

Every classroom in the Harwich school is sanitized every evening, Carpenter said in the email to parents. Additional sanitizing will be done at the high school this weekend in the areas frequented by the positive individual, he said. Classes will resume as usual Monday for all students except those asked to quarantine.

Contact tracers from the Visiting Nurse Association will be following up with those in close contact with the positive student. The school has been in direct contact with local boards of health, according to a statement.

“Given that children spend a fraction of their time in school, and may have had close contact socially or extracurricularly, we will be proactively working with the student and their family to identify and inform any student or adult from our school community who would meet the CDC definition of close contact,” Carpenter said. Close contact, as defined by the CDC, is being within six feet of an infected person for at least 15 minutes. Desks in classrooms are spaced six feet apart and all students wear masks, but because students are in classrooms for more than 15 minutes, "We will treat all as needing to quarantine in order to limit any possibility of viral spread within the school," he said in a followup email.

Chatham Selectmen Chairman Shareen Davis said the board has been apprised of the situation, “and as this news may be concerning to the community, we want to assure everyone the town continues to take all necessary action to protect the health of our community,” she said in the news release.

Fire Chief David DePasquale said people should not hesitate to call the fire department if they need help.

“No one within our department has tested positive,” he said. “We remain at full daily staffing levels.”

Town Manager Jill Goldsmith said her primary concern is the health of town employees, their families and the community, “which is why we are working closely with state and local pubic health authorities.”

Monomoy High began classes last Monday. During the week, Carpenter said, students and staff maintained six-foot social distancing and other safety protocols such as wearing masks and washing hands. “Those measures, taken in combination, greatly reduce the risk of additional transmission,” he said.

Students quarantined at home will switch to all-remote learning. Monomoy has a hybrid schedule with students, divided into separate cohorts, attending school in person two days and learning remotely on the third day.

He urged parents to monitor children for COVID-19 symptoms.

Alan Pollock contributed to this story.  This story was updated to include new information.

9/20/20 12 p.m.