Students in Avon Public Schools are learning remotely for two weeks after an uptick in COVID-19 cases and exposures in the school community.
Over Thanksgiving break, a group of high school students attended a social gathering with other teenagers in town. Someone at the gathering was unknowingly infected with the coronavirus. The ripple effects would soon become clear when students in the high school started showing symptoms and testing positive.
"Today, we learned of positive cases among high school students associated with a common social gathering outside of the school environment over the Thanksgiving break," Bridget Carnemolla, superintendent, wrote to parents. "As we have worked to conduct contact tracing today we have determined that there are potential contacts and connections across all of our schools."
The cases linked to the social gathering, and the potential close contacts, prompted Avon Public Schools to transition to fully remote learning.
“One positive case, in even a small gathering, can result in multiple cases," said Jennifer Kertanis, the director of health for the Farmington Valley Health District.
Kertanis described her department's contact tracing efforts as looking like a "spider web."
"Sometimes for every one case, when we do contact tracing, we may identify as many as four to ten other potential close contacts," said Kertanis.
The contact tracing conducted after the social gathering revealed potential contacts districtwide. Kertanis said that the close contacts include siblings who attend other Avon schools.
"We know that this virus is spreading very rapidly in households," said Kertanis. "The impact of that type of spread was going to have a pretty significant impact, potentially, on schools."
The two weeks of remote learning allows Kertanis and her team to continue contact tracing.
Carnemolla, Avon's superintendent, wrote to families on Friday explaining that they are now seeing positive cases from several different gatherings.
"As we expected when the tracing began on Wednesday, there is not only one 'social gathering' or particular individuals associated with the cases we continue to see right now; rather, we are seeing several 'clusters' of confirmed cases and dozens of quarantined individuals throughout the community," wrote Carnemolla.
As of Friday there were 10 confirmed positive cases district-wide and many more community members in quarantine, Carnemolla said.
Students are expected to return to in-person learning Monday, Dec. 14.
Kertanis said that this underscores the need for people to stop attending gatherings outside of their households.
“Limit social gatherings because you could be spreading disease before you even know that you have it," said Kertanis.