COVID-19 outbreak at SHS

Published 4:47 pm Friday, March 26, 2021

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Southampton High School is reporting an outbreak of COVID-19.

On March 16, school officials informed parents that two students who participated in the same after-school activity had tested positive for the disease. According to a March 25 letter Superintendent Dr. Gwendolyn Shannon sent parents, the number of positive students has now increased to 12.

Only one of the infected students was not a participant in the activity, but mingled with someone who was, Shannon said.

The school division is currently in Phase II of Shannon’s reopening plan, meaning all grade levels have returned for in-person learning two days a week, with the option for parents to keep their children 100% virtual. The division is considering returning students to four days a week for the fourth nine weeks of the school year.

According to Shannon, four of the infected students were attending in-person classes. All students enrolled in Southampton County Public Schools are permitted to participate in extracurricular after-school activities during the third nine weeks, regardless of whether they are in-person or virtual during the school day.

“We are happy to share that all students involved are doing well and are expected to recover fully,” Shannon said.

All four in-person students have quarantined according to the division’s online COVID-19 dashboard as of March 24, as have four staff members at the high school. According to Shannon, some of the students have already ended their quarantine.

Shannon issued a press release March 26 confirming Southampton High School and Southampton Middle School had halted all classes from March 17 through 19, at which time the buildings were cleaned and disinfected with the disinfectant fogging sprayer.

An additional four students at Riverdale Elementary, three at Southampton Middle, two at Meherrin Elementary and one at Capron Elementary are also in precautionary quarantine, though none have tested positive. But nothing on the dashboard indicates these precautionary quarantines are in any way related to the SHS outbreak. There is also one positive staff member at Riverdale and one precautionary quarantine at the division’s central office.

Division Nurse Supervisor Joyce Tomlin, who is also the nurse for SHS, has been working very closely with the infected high school students and their parents to monitor their health, and has been in constant communication with a Western Tidewater Health District epidemiologist, Shannon said.

“Full vaccination is one factor that has worked to the advantage of many of our adults,” Shannon said. “Recently we learned from the Western Tidewater Health District that when contact tracing, if an adult is fully vaccinated, we no longer have to ask them to quarantine. Full vaccination has been a game-changer with COVID-19.”

The division has also “revisited the feasibility of conducting in-person and outdoor activities that require close contact, excessive sweating, or other actions that may cause forced respiration,” Shannon said.

But after an immediate halt to all activities, including school, “we have decided that with mask-wearing, continued monitoring, and implementation of mitigation strategies, we can resume all activities,” Shannon said.

She’s also asking all staff and students that if they have been in close contact with anyone that has tested positive for COVID-19 or are experiencing any symptoms associated with COVID-19, to stay home from school or work and contact their primary care physician or other health care providers immediately.