In the previous installment of “Talkin’ COVID” two weeks ago, there was a lot to write home about. We had just experienced a week of 5 new “active cases” of COVID-19 in the PA community. This was up from a previous high of 3, and resulted in large-scale close-contact student quarantining in the Upper School. That prompted us to announce a move to our In-School Hybrid model in the Middle and Upper Schools for at least the weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas. The goal was to greatly reduce levels of student quarantining, thus ensuring fuller student access to school 5 days a week. Now, two weeks later and into our second week of In-School Hybrid, there is less that we must talk about. Often, no news is good news. Still, there are several good things worth saying today.
Since our peak of 5 cases, we have experienced 2 cases in each of the past two weeks, and two thus far in the new week. We have been pleased that we have not yet seen a post-Thanksgiving spike. There is speculation in Minnesota that a spike may yet occur in the broader community, and so one might occur here also. (While PA isn’t a “spreader,” it is a part of the broader community and not insulated from it.) At any rate, we have not seen a sustained upward trend in PA community cases.
I’m happy to share that our new learning model in Middle and Upper Schools appears to be working:
First, insofar as it is a learning model, there appears to be plenty of learning going on. The kids and their teachers have known how to use SimulClassroom technology from home since the beginning of the year, so using it in school is an easy transition. Further, we sense that students are readily engaged through the technology when they are bodily present here, because it becomes part of an ordinary school-day routine with peers, teachers, lunches, and the general school environment. Students really appreciate being in school! And this year, they’ll tell you so!
Second, the model does greatly reduce levels of student quarantining. The one Upper- and one Middle-School case since last Monday have resulted in a total of one student quarantine. That is, putting it mildly, a marked improvement.
Here are some “fast facts” about our experience to date with COVID-19 at PA:
- Now into the 15th week of school, we have had a total of 25 active community cases. Community members needing to quarantine at home as close contacts now total 376. (including only 18 in the past two weeks). The quarantines have ranged from 3 to 10 school days, averaging 5-7.
- We know of 6 community cases likely transmitted from an infected community member to a “close contact” at school or a school-related function. Put differently, it is likely that 1.6 percent of community “close contacts” have gotten the virus.
- Community members who have tested positive have reported symptoms ranging from being asymptomatic to having cold and flu-like symptoms of varying degrees. There have been no hospitalizations among community cases and, so far as we know, no hospitalizations for COVID among PA households.
And…this just in: today the Minnesota Department of Health announced it will follow newly released CDC guidelines, entailing some shorter quarantine recommendations. The MDH will present details to schools this Wednesday, and we will update MDH and CDC reference documents on the PA website promptly after that.