HENRICO COUNTY, Va. (WWBT) - A student enrolled in a Henrico County Public Schools (HCPS) child care program has tested positive for COVID-19.
On Sunday, HCPS found out a student in a child care program at Henrico High School had contracted the coronavirus.
The program is run by the YMCA of Greater Richmond and is available for children in kindergarten through eighth grade.
In an email sent out to Henrico High School staff and families Sunday night, Principal Karin Castillo-Rose said in part:
"The YMCA of Greater Richmond learned today October 11, 2020 that a student in their program at Henrico HS tested positive for COVID-19 on Friday, October 9, 2020. The student was last in the building on October 9, 2020. Upon learning of this, the YMCA staff immediately contacted HCPS and the Henrico Health Department, and they are following the HCPS health plan. The YMCA program operates in one building on campus and is away from instructional activity related to Henrico High School staff.
Our staff continues to clean and disinfect workspaces according to best practices for health-risk mitigation. Our offices will remain open for appointments and other school-related business. However, if you have any concerns about conducting school business on-campus, please call us and we will be happy to reschedule or make virtual arrangements to the greatest extent possible. You can contact us at 804-228-2700."
Castillo-Rose added notifications were made to individuals identified through contact tracing.
The YMCA of Greater Richmond says 17 children and three staff, who were part of this particular pod arrangement, were affected.
“We are monitoring this situation closely. All staff and program participants must report symptom-free in order to re-join the program. The Y is conducting daily health checks for all staff and program participants,” a spokesperson for the YMCA said.
A spokesperson added the parents and guardians of the children in the infected student’s pod will need to quarantine for 14 days.
“There is no scenario that we’re going to create that is risk-free,” said Dr. Danny Avula, Director of the Henrico County Health District. “The reality of people coming within close contact with each other is an opportunity for the virus to spread. We need to get it out of our minds that we’re going to have zero cases when we return back to school.”
While this may be the first Henrico student case within a building, several staff members have tested positive since the start of the school year. So far this month, two employees contracted COVID-19; one at Baker Elementary School and another at Varina High School.
“I think that what happens in schools is a reflection of what’s happening in communities,” Avula said. “The more spread we see out and about in the community, invariably that’s going to end up in schools.”
Health safety measures are in place in the YMCA child care programs which include the following:
- Children will wash hands prior to joining their class at the beginning of each day.
- We will enforce increased handwashing and sanitizing throughout the day for children and staff.
- Equipment and touch points will be wiped down on a continuous basis throughout the day with janitorial maintenance each day after close of the program.
According to the YMCA’s website, students will be in the same class during the day.
“Each “huddle” will be in a 1:13 staff to child ratio,” the website said. “Rising kindergarteners will be in a 2:13 ratio.”
However, Dr. Avula said the best efforts to curb transmission in a school setting will come from the students and staff.
“Masks are going to be the most effective thing we can do to limit the spread of disease,” he added. “Enforcing distancing, trying to keep as much as possible that six-foot distance, or if not possible, three feet with a mask.”
The responsibility also falls on parents to ensure they are watching their child’s health.
“We need to be ultra-conservative about recognizing any symptoms and holding a child at home because we don’t want to potentially expose any other child in a classroom to that,” Avula said.
Health officials are also keeping an eye on flu season, but Avula said impacts in other areas of the world have been lower this year.
“What we’ve seen in the southern hemisphere in countries that have already experienced their flu season, is they have seen significantly less flu activity - 10 to 20 times lower than normally expected - because of the mitigation efforts against COVID-19,” he said. “So that’s really encouraging.”
However, efforts still need to be made by all parties involved in keeping school settings clean and parents alerting the proper agencies if a child tests positive for COVID-19.
“We need to be comfortable, particularly in a younger, healthier population, that kids are going to get COVID and we need to be ready for that,” Avula said. “I think it would be a great success if we identify cases quickly, we’re able to contain them and exclude them from school so we don’t see massive outbreaks.”
The school system is tracking the number of employees and students exposed and posting that information on the HCPS website.
That webpage breaks down the school where the employee who tested positive works and the date the positive case was reported to HCPS.
The Henrico County School Board is scheduled to vote on a back to learning option for the second nine weeks of school on Oct. 22.
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