Superintendent Kevin Smith wasn’t entirely surprised to get the news that a student who had been in a Wilton school last week had tested positive for COVID-19. It’s an eventuality he’s discussed with his fellow superintendents in preparing for how they would respond if and when that call came in.
For Smith, that call came Friday, Sept. 11, when he was notified that a Wilton High School student who had been present for classes in school was a confirmed positive case.
“The student was in school on Thursday,” Smith told GOOD Morning Wilton, indicating that the student was part of Cohort B, the half of the student body in attendance on Thursdays. The student was not at school on Friday.
As Smith detailed in his letter to the school community, the district would follow its “containment plan” after an exposure, which, he told GMW, adheres to guidance from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC): the school building would temporarily be closed for deep cleaning and for officials to begin contact tracing.
“This case gave us the weekend,” Smith said, adding that the custodial staff would be working over the weekend to deep clean the building. He said that once administrators “assure the building is clean,” students and teachers will be able to return to school on Monday, and “school will proceed as planned.”
Beyond confirming that the student was in attendance on Thursday, Smith said the district is “doing what we need to do to protect the privacy of the student.” As he wrote in his letter to the community, the district is prohibited by law from sharing any personally identifiable information.
However, the district did put its contact tracing plan into motion, in collaboration with the Wilton Health Department. Health officials were reaching out to anyone who had “close contact”–individuals who spent “at least 15 minutes within six feet…or a direct exposure to possibly infected droplets of saliva or nasal mucus”–and instructing them to quarantine for 14 days.
According to First Selectwoman Lynne Vanderslice, that contact tracing began Friday evening, and that health department officials would continue to follow up.
Others who were in shared spaces with the infected student–classrooms, cafeteria, or other spaces–were contacted by WHS administrators, and informed that they should “actively self-monitor for symptoms,” but that they were not required to quarantine. Symptoms could include cough, fever, and difficulty breathing.
Vanderslice called the response “swift” as a result of efforts between the district and the town before the start of the school year, to have protocols in place.
Smith said that the one confirmed case “is the only one we know of.”
What Would Smith Do? Hypothetical–Mid-week case or more than one positive case
GOOD Morning Wilton asked Smith just how many positive cases would cause him to close school long-term.
“That’s a fair question. It’s a lot of the conversation my peers and I are having,” he said, adding that it’s something he and the leaders of other districts are still figuring out, to be honest.
“A lot of plans are probably being assessed right now,” he said, adding that “different districts operate differently.”
Case in point, Smith referenced Newtown, which had a positive case but didn’t close a school. Meanwhile, last week a teacher in Westport tested positive at Coleytown Elementary School, which did close for one day.
What would Smith have decided to do if this one Wilton case had occurred mid-week? “I have a hunch we probably would shut for at least a day,” he said.
Be Proactive, Practice Health and Safety Strategies
Smith said that the student in question and their family did what they were supposed to do, and reminded families what the protocol is: “If you know you were exposed, quarantine and then contact the school nurse., he said, adding, “We want people to practice health and safety strategies,” and follow guidelines about wearing masks and maintaining social distance.
Vanderslice echoed those precautions in her email to residents Sunday night:
“With schools open, residents returning from summer homes or vacations, increased participation in activities and sports, and the start of flu season, there is greater potential for the spread of the virus. After six months it is difficult for all of us to continue to be vigilant, but it is critical we continue to do so. Please be mindful of your fellow Wilton residents and practice the three W’s to minimize the spread:
- Watch your distance, both indoors and outdoors
- Wear a mask/face covering when you can’t maintain 6 feet of distance
- Wash your hands frequently and after contact