Lebanon school officials have now quarantined 41 students after confirmation of a second student with a positive COVID-19 test Wednesday, the third day of the new school year.
Both actions involve confirmation of tests taken before school started, yet the students came to school, according to Superintendent Todd Yohey.
“This is the second day in a row that a student attended school prior to receiving the results of their COVID-19 test. In both cases, the students were asymptomatic. Based on the criteria for exposure, no staff members have been quarantined,” Yohey said Wednesday.
“We learned from the health department today that testing facilities are supposed to inform people who get tested to isolate at home until they get their test results. We do not believe that happened in either of these cases. There simply cannot be a breakdown of this type of communication. It increases the risk to our students.”
On Monday, Lebanon students were some of the first in the region to start the school year with in-person classes. The next day the district found out one of its students had tested positive for COVID-19.
Yohey said those affected by both responses weren’t from the same class and no staffers were exposed, according to guidelines set by the district in consultation with the Warren County Health District.
The Lebanon district emphasized how parents can help prevent the spread of the new virus.
“This only works if people err on the side of caution. Please assess your kids every day and keep them home if they have symptoms. Employers, please work with your employees if they need time off to stay home with a sick or quarantined child.”
While awaiting the second student’s results, Yohey expressed relief the first case was handled according to policy within hours of the test result report.
“You hope it doesn’t happen. It went exactly as we hoped it would,” Yohey said.
“I want to commend our staff for the rapid response in both of these cases. Our decision to hire our own contact tracer is proving to be the difference in waiting several days for notification. In both cases, we had all communications and quarantine information out within hours,” Yohey added after the second positive result was confirmed.
Elsewhere in Ohio, a student in Chillicothe tested positive and was sent home, according to a media report.
In Warren County, where Lebanon is the county seat, there have been 2,009 new virus cases reported since the beginning of the pandemic. There have been 40 deaths, including one new one in the past 14 days, and 1,612 “presumed recovered,” according to the Ohio Department of Health..
The response to efforts to limit the new virus’s spread has prompted a wide range of responses in Warren County.
Lebanon schools required masks and took a wide range of precautions. On Tuesday, most sheriff’s deputies working in the courthouses in Lebanon were without masks while on duty in the courts in the county government complex, while most everyone else wore masks.
Bellbrook and Brookville also opened with in-person classes this week. Both have not reported COVID-19 cases.
“Teachers started last week and students this past Monday. We have not had any positive tests during this time frame,” Bellbrook Superintendent Doug Cozad said Wednesday via email.
Health officials predicted this could change.
” We believe that in another week and a half or so, the story could be different. It will all depends whether or not the student shows symptoms in or outside of the classroom, how quickly the schools take action, how long it takes to get back the test results, how quickly we are notified, when contact tracing begins, etc. Some labs take a couple of days to process specimens while others can take a little longer,” Laurie Fox, public information officer for Greene County Public Health, said in an email.
Before Lebanon opened, it developed a plan to deal with COVID-19 issues with the Warren County Board of Health. The first of eight scenarios in the district plan describes the response to a student who comes to the school nurse with a 101-degree temperature.
“The nurse will place the student in a sick room which is not the clinic. The student will be required to wear a face-covering in the room.”
The student’s parents or caregivers will be called to pick up the sick student and be referred for COVID-19 testing.
“The classroom will be immediately cleaned and disinfected with students out of the room. The nurse’s station will be cleaned and disinfected immediately and the sick room will be cleaned and disinfected after the student leaves for home. Other areas of the school may be cleaned and disinfected based on the movement of the student. "
Students testing positive are isolated for 10 days by the health department and their family is quarantined for at least two weeks. Staff and other students who came within six feet of the student for 10 or more consecutive minutes are also quarantined for at least two weeks.
“In most cases, this will not be an entire classroom of students. People who come in contact with an exposed person are not quarantined. However, they may choose to self-quarantine."
Students can come back to school after 14 days, once they show no fever a day “without fever-reducing medication and do not have any symptoms of COVID.”
Parents and caregivers will be notified about the positive test and “additional communication” will be sent to other parents and caregivers.
“If the student tests negative for COVID or does not get tested, the student is permitted back at school once she has not had a fever for 24 hours without fever-reducing medication and any other COVID symptoms have improved significantly,” the scenario concludes.