Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Two weeks into school year, coronavirus detected in Royal School District

Staff Writer | September 10, 2020 1:05 AM

ROYAL CITY — Five cases of the coronavirus associated with the Royal School District have been detected, according to Grant County Health District.

The district opened its doors to a mix of on-campus and remote learning two weeks ago.

Four students from Red Rock Elementary, Royal Intermediate School and Royal Middle School and one staff member have tested positive for the virus, the district wrote in a Wednesday press release. At a Wednesday meeting of the Grant County Board of Health, Health Officer Dr. Alexander Brzezny stated that the cases did not appear to be linked.

In-person instruction at the school district is broken up into cohorts, which are smaller groups of students that are kept separate.

If two cases of the coronavirus in a cohort were linked within 14 days of each other, the health district would consider it an outbreak and dismiss that cohort from school, Brzezny said. If two cohorts, or 10 percent of all cohorts, are dismissed, the district would order the closure of the whole school, and if two schools were closed the district would consider closing schools district-wide, he added.

Officials reported Wednesday that it isn’t clear if the virus has spread further in the schools.

“If a child or other staff member had close contact with a person who tested positive, they will be contacted directly with instructions about monitoring symptoms, quarantining, and testing,” the district wrote in a press release. “At this point into the investigations, it is too early to assess whether there was any additional spread at schools.”

If further cases are detected, health officials warned that schools might be closed.

“For now, the schools in Royal City remain open based on the local school board decision to offer some form of in-person learning, but given the rate of COVID in Grant County, there is a continued risk for COVID spread on campus,” the district wrote. “The decision to close the schools will be based on finding spread or outbreaks on school premises or on the buses.”

The health district also noted that in-person education is currently not recommended by local or state health officials, given the rate of coronavirus infection in Grant County.

“As previously presented to our community, DOH and our region’s health officers do not support full in-person education until the rate of COVID-19 drops below (75 cases per 100,000 people over the course of 14) days,” the district wrote.

Moses Lake School District, the only other major public school district in the county at this time offering some in-person education, starts school Monday, Sept. 14.

Emry Dinman can be reached at edinman@columbiabasinherald.com.