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Local schools turning to 14-day virtual learning ‘reset’ after COVID-19 clusters identified

Updated: Sep. 21, 2020 at 5:49 PM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Another Memphis high school announced Monday it would go virtual for two weeks as a result of multiple COVID-19 cases.

Officials at Christian Brothers High School on Walnut Grove Road said they will switch to virtual learning only until October 2nd, after six cases of COVID-19. The school reported positive cases among a teacher, staff member, and four students. A spokesperson said the two employee cases are related, two student cases are related, and the other two student cases are isolated.

School leadership said they were in touch with the Shelby County Health Department about the positive cases. They said they do not believe transmission was occurring on campus because of numerous mitigation measures like required face coverings, temperature checks, and reduced daily density on campus.

“This move was supported by the health department, not mandated, and allows positive cases to resolve and any new cases to present themselves while mitigating risk of transmission on campus for the safety of our students and employees," Jamie Elkington, Director of Marketing and Communications at CBHS, wrote.

The two week stop to in-person classes has been a common strategy at controlling school outbreaks locally.

“A 14-day period of being away from one another is a bit of a reset,” Dr. Steve Threlkeld, an infectious disease specialist at Baptist, said. “The vast majority of people who are going to become infected will become infected in 14 days.”

Collierville High School suspended in-person learning for 14 days after a COVID-19 cluster formed in late August and early September, resulting in more than two dozen positive tests and more than 300 quarantines. The district has since gone back to face to face instruction, and district-wide reported less than five new cases among students and staff in the previous week, according to the state department of education dashboard.

Ted Horrell is the superintendent at Lakeland School System. He said in the first six weeks of school the K-8 district has seen no cases among students and one case within its staff. No quarantines were required.

Horrell told WMC Action News 5 that the district is focused on maintaining social distancing while students are on school grounds.

“It’s really been critical. Again, I can’t say that’s the reason we don’t have any student cases. But we have to feel like it’s been a contributing factor to it,” he said.

Threlkeld said for districts who end up with multiple cases the 14-day reset strategy works, but positive cases can still slip through the cracks even after the two week period.

“You take advantage of the fact that we know people who are going to get infected are going to get infected from a given exposure within that time frame. But what you can’t guarantee is that some may be asymptomatically infected within that time frame and be infectious to others beyond the 14 days," Threlkeld said. “That’s the hole in the protection you have to account for even when you do those two-week re-starts.”

CBHS said it hopes to return to on-campus learning by Monday, October 5.

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