Richmond private schools close after students test positive for COVID-19 following weekend house party

Updated: Sep. 18, 2020 at 2:58 PM EDT
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - A private school community is dealing with coronavirus concerns after a party involving more than 60 students.

Leaders at St. Catherine’s and St. Christopher’s Upper School divisions say the campuses are closed Friday and students are learning virtually after at least two students tested positive for coronavirus.

The closures will allow both schools to consult with the Virginia Department of Health to conduct thorough contact tracing and campus cleaning.

School staff sent two letters to parents on Thursday afternoon and evening - first of a weekend house party, then of the positive cases.

In the letter, co-signed by school leaders, it says that both positive cases came from students who attended an unsupervised gathering last weekend “absent of social distancing or mask-wearing.” It went on to say that after identifying students at the party, those students were not allowed to come back on campus until tested negative for COVID-19.

The school says it was able to track down many other students at the party and get them tested for coronavirus. Most of those results came back negative.

The second letter stated that St. Catherine now had two positive cases.

Dr. Danny Avula with the Richmond-Henrico Health District says they were notified of the cases, but because of the timing of the party in relation to the test results, they can’t say for sure the party is to blame.

“Because we’re not certain that that is where the exposure took place, it’s hard to know what to expect. We’re obviously going to chase down those contacts and we’re going to ask them to quarantine," Dr. Avula said.

Both schools quickly decided to switch to virtual learning on Friday, September 18th for students in grades 9 through 12. After-school activities for the upperclassmen were also canceled so that the school could continue with contact tracing and cleaning of the campus.

“High school and college-age students are, understandably, not worried about getting COVID. They’re not worried about the symptoms, they’re not worried about very serious consequences because most people in that age group have pretty mild disease,” Dr. Avula added.

For now, parents are urged to talk to their kids to find out if they went to this party and if so, get them tested.

Over the weekend, school leaders will determine whether or not to reopen the campus for in-person learning on Monday, Sept. 21. Read the school’s full statement here.

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