Hopewell: 11 students, 4 staff test positive for COVID-19, most contracted within community

Published: Jul. 30, 2021 at 11:10 AM EDT|Updated: Aug. 3, 2021 at 4:11 AM EDT
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HOPEWELL, Va. (WWBT) - Less than a week after students returned to the classroom, Hopewell Schools have had a “handful” of new COVID-19 cases.

Since school began, 11 students and four staff members have tested positive for COVID-19. Most of the cases were likely contracted from within the community, but one staff member who tested positive on Aug. 1 likely caught the virus in school.

The students and staff have all tested positive since July 27; three at Hopewell High School, five at Harry James Elementary School, one at C.G. Woodson Middle School and two, including the very first case, at Dupont Elementary School. Staff at P. Copeland Elementary School, Harry James Elementary School and Dupont Elementary School have tested positive.

The school system posted to social media Monday evening about the recent events.

“We are working almost around the clock to respond to case reports as well as expand suitable instructional options for our families who prefer not to send their children in-person for instruction for the time being,” the Facebook post said. “We are building out additional instructional programming options right now, and ask for understanding and patience as we do this as quickly as we can.”

However, the situation certainly left many parents alarmed.

One Harry E. James Elementary School mom said she didn’t know a student had tested positive in her daughter’s class until she heard about it from someone else.

“Upon calling the school, I was informed that if the child was not within the 6 feet distance, then no other parents were notified,” the parent said. “As a parent, I feel the whole class should have been notified.”

According to Hopewell Schools’ health plan for the 2021-2022 school year, a “close contact” is someone who has been:

  • Within 6 ft. of person who has COVID-19, for over a total of 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period; or
  • Exposed to respiratory secretions (e.g. being coughed or sneezed on, sharing a drinking glass or utensils, kissing) from a person who has COVID-19; or
  • Providing care for a person who has COVID-19; or
  • Living with a person who has COVID-19.
  • Exception: In indoor K-12 settings, a student who is 3 feet or more away from an infected student is not considered a close contact as long as both students are wearing masks, and the school has other prevention strategies (i.e. universal and correct mask use, physical distancing, increased ventilation, etc.) in place

Health leaders also said it comes down to mitigation factors.

“As many layers of protection that can be applied, should be applied,” said Dr. Melissa Vray, Deputy Director of the Richmond & Henrico Health District. “That really will drive how children need to be notified, or how many parents need to be notified.”

“The protocols that we have put into place to minimize the risk of the spread of COVID in our schools have resulted in less than 1% of student cases last school year (2020-2021) being due to transmission in schools,” Hopewell Schools said. “This year, we have protocols in place that exceed the CDC and VDH standards and we will continue to take appropriate measures to minimize risk in order to allow our students to be in school.”

However, the parent NBC12 spoke with felt otherwise.

“There are no shields, the kids are just wearing masks; they’re at a table, three kids at a time - they need to do better preventatives because the pandemic is just growing,” she said.

The COVID-19 dashboard showed most of these cases were likely contracted out in the community.

However, Viray said unvaccinated students need to stay home if they were a close contact. Things are a bit different for vaccinated students.

“If there’s a known COVID exposure, they don’t have to stay home, but we are asking them to definitely mask; we’re asking that they definitely get tested 3-5 days after exposure,” she added.

Hopewell Schools added vaccinated students and staff do not need to quarantine unless they’re showing symptoms.

While students have only just returned to the classroom, many parents are concerned about what the rest of the year will look like.

“Her safety - there’s no price on her safety,” one parent said.

The school system said it is taking each case seriously and conducting a thorough investigation.

During the 2020-2021 school year, Hopewell Schools created a COVID-19 dashboard to keep the community abreast of cases within the school system. A new dashboard was created Friday morning detailing the number of COVID-19 cases for the 2021-2022 school year. To view the 2020-2021 COVID-19 cases, click here.

Copyright 2021 WWBT. All rights reserved.

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