With 110 Wilton School Students & Staff in Quarantine and 8 Positive Cases, Officials Blame Youth Sports & Family Gatherings for District’s COVID Spread

Kindergarten students were directed to stand on white spray-painted dots six feet apart.

Wilton Public Schools are reporting more COVID-19 cases as well as many members of the school community who need to quarantine due to direct contact with a COVID-positive or exposed person, putting school officials on high alert.

In an email to Wilton Schools’ families and staff Monday evening, Superintendent Kevin Smith said the district may need to consider the possibility of shifting learning models–from full in-person to hybrid, or from hybrid to all-remote–if health officials recommend doing so or if the numbers of individuals in quarantine continue to rise.

As part of his email, Smith said two additional COVID-19 cases were reported on Monday: a staff member at Cider Mill School and a district-level staff member both tested positive, bringing the total number of cases in the district to eight.

Moreover, there are currently 110 individuals–both staff and students–who are in quarantine due to direct contact with someone who is positive.

The numbers are high at Cider Mill and Miller-Driscoll Schools, the two schools in the district that have returned to full-time (four-day) in-person learning. According to Smith, there are higher numbers of students quarantined in those schools because school officials have quarantined an entire class when there has been an exposure. “The classes are together all day so we think it’s appropriate for the whole group to quarantine,” he told GOOD Morning Wilton.

Smith called the increase in cases both in the schools and the community “significant” and concerning. However, he says he believes the spread of the virus isn’t happening at school.

“To the best of our understanding so far, it does not appear that these cases were a result of in-school transmission. We do know that several of the recent cases were a result of participation in youth athletic events in the region or from family transmission,” he said, alluding to what officials have determined during contact tracing.

Even though the correlation is high between the schools that are full-time and have high quarantine numbers, Smith says he doesn’t see that as proof that there’s the danger of virus spread in the schools.

“We’d been all in for nearly a month and had been in good shape until last Tuesday. We’re definitely watching. We’re paying attention to community spread and spread in the schools. If we keep having cases and requiring individuals to quarantine, we may find ourselves in a situation where we don’t have enough adults to staff the schools. We’re seeing this scenario play out in communities across the region,” he said.

First Selectwoman Lynne Vanderslice was direct in her reminders to residents about what the rising numbers of cases mean:  greater chance of canceling in-person school.

“A consequence of a positive student or staff member is that a large number of students and staff are required to be out of school and in quarantine because of exposure. 110 members of the school community are in quarantine. As such, reducing the need to quarantine is critical if we are to be successful in maximizing in-person education,” she wrote.

While quarantining is a precaution against the possibility of spread, so far there has been no documented evidence of the virus spreading from person to person within the schools.

“Positive members of the school community contracted the virus outside of the schools,” Vanderslice reiterated. “Our protocols, including mask-wearing and quarantining after exposure, appear to be effective. Schools are not the problem.”

Here’s where the spread is happening, according to the first selectwoman:

“According to national and state health officials, the number one source of spread is unmasked gatherings between non-household members. Unmasked gatherings include restaurant dining, “dining” which is really just drinking, weddings, birthday parties, dinner parties, and similar events. Specifically in Wilton, cases impacting schools are due to sports participation, private gatherings, and exposure through a family member,” she reiterated.

Editor’s note:  We asked Vanderslice about where the cases were originating and she said that while she didn’t want to publicly identify the sports because it may identify the children involved, she did say it was “moderate risk sports that were indoors, without a mask.”

Nine new Wilton Cases, Correction on Death Report

On Monday, town officials learned that there were nine new COVID cases diagnosed in Wilton over the weekend, bringing the total to 347. In addition, the one new death that had been reported last week was retracted by the state and the mistake was designated a “correction of town assignment.”

Vanderslice reminded residents about what they can do to help reduce the community spread and the number of students and staff in quarantine: “Avoid, stop or reduce behavior that is fueling the spread. Instead, behave as if you have the virus and those around you do as well.”

Most importantly, she repeated that “masks are a highly effective means to protect yourself and others. Please, wear one when required.” She also listed specific mask-wearing reminders:

  • Masks are required at restaurants unless you are dining. Meaning they are required unless you are actually eating or drinking. If you are seated waiting for your meal to arrive or you are lingering at the table after your meal is eaten, you should be wearing a mask. If you meet someone for coffee and sit for an hour, you should be wearing a mask unless you are actually drinking the coffee.
  • For the same health reasons, you should wear masks for residential dining with members outside your immediate household.
  • Masks are required at weddings and other events held at commercial venues.
  • Masks are required any time you can’t maintain a minimum of 6 feet of social distance.
  • Masks are required when passing another individual even when biking or running. Wear a mask that is easy to pull up for the 6 feet before and after passing.

This is also the case on the NRVT:  Trail users are now required to stay right and in single file when passing alongside another user on the trail. This applies whether walking, running or biking, Vanderslice said, adding that new signage to remind trail users is being created.

The article was updated with an editor’s note about Vanderslice’s comments pertaining to specific sports.

1 COMMENT

  1. My wife and I have been very careful and have stayed away our family and friends. We always wear a mask in public and social distance. During our recent visit to the NRVT we noticed numerous people without masks. Some were alone, some in a small group or some talking on their cell phones. We don’t understand why folks can’t follow the rules. Are they too good for rules? Let’s all follow the rules in Wilton and help end the Covid-19 problem.

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