Both Wilton Health Director Barry Bogle and Wilton Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Kevin Smith issued announcements Wednesday afternoon, Jan. 20, that Wilton High School would be moving to remote status for two weeks due to fears of a COVID-19 outbreak at the school.
Officials made the call for remote learning after discovering that multiple students had recently received confirmed positive COVID diagnoses and almost two dozen more students had been directly exposed to the virus through close contact.
Bogle’s press release said his department received an alert about confirmed COVID-19 cases among some Wilton High School students and his office “immediately began contact tracing activities relative to said alert.”
As of Wednesday afternoon, that investigation revealed approximately 20 students had been directly exposed to the virus at several parties and gatherings over the previous weekend.
According to Smith’s email to the WHS community, “a number” of other students have begun to show COVID-related symptoms.
The impact on the wider community and the potential for outbreaks in the school and beyond moved officials to change the district’s learning model from hybrid to remote.
“We are very concerned about the number of individuals who were involved in these events and are concerned about the potential for greater spread in our high school and community,” Smith wrote.
Complicating matters further, both Smith and Bogle say not everyone involved is cooperating with contact-tracing efforts to help track and mitigate the spread of the virus, either through the Health Department or with school contact tracing personnel.
“Unfortunately, our contact tracers are facing some resistance from various persons attached/affiliated with these gatherings. This has slowed and hampered our efforts to identify all persons involved,” Bogle wrote.
Smith made an appeal for more cooperation from anyone involved.
“We are asking all families who participated in any of these events to share that information so the town can contact trace thoroughly,” he said.
The concern about how many students were involved, coupled with the ongoing need for additional contact tracing (made more difficult from lack of cooperation) led to Bogle’s decision to order the WHS building closed for all school-related activities for 14 days, until Tuesday, Feb. 2, 2021.
The Wilton High School building will reopen on Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2021. Athletics will be able to restart that day, and in-person learning will resume on Thursday, Feb. 4, for students in Cohort B.
The order has not impacted any other school in the district, which as of now will remain on their current schedules.
Anyone identified by Wilton health officials as having had close contact with a confirmed COVID-positive individual has been ordered to quarantine.
Any parent or student who was present at any of the gatherings over the weekend is advised to quarantine for 14 days from the date of the gathering and to contact WHS personnel or the Health Department.
Siblings and other family members who reside with students who are confirmed positive or are exhibiting symptoms should also quarantine. Members of the household who are positive should isolate from others within the home to the greatest extent possible.
Other WHS students and teachers who were not directly involved are advised to monitor for symptoms and stay home until instructed otherwise. Bogle added that more information would be provided as the investigation continues.
Bogle implied that cooperating with officials by notifying them and participating in contact tracing would demonstrate social responsibility, writing, “… so that we can arrest the spread of the virus and lessen the impact on the entire school community.”
In a second email sent to the wider school district community, Smith added, “I understand that the announcement of our school closure may surprise and disappoint many of you, but I know that you understand our commitment to prioritizing everyone’s health and safety at this critical time. I also want to highlight the fact that we wish to continue to partner with all members of our community, without judgment, to make the best decisions possible to keep our community safe.”
Anyone with information can contact the Health Department at 203.604.7088 and the Wilton High School at 203.762.3381, ext. 8324.
GOOD Morning Wilton has reached out to town and school officials for further comment and will update the article accordingly.