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  • Jim Townsend

Confirmed COVID-19 cases at PHS

In an email on Friday evening, Portland Public Schools Superintendent William Heath notified parents that, “The Ionia County Health Department notified the school district tonight that two of our High School students have tested positive for COVID-19. These students were in school on Monday and Wednesday this week. We are responsible for informing all staff and students who are considered “close contacts” by the CDC Guidelines, however we feel that it is important to notify all families in our district in an abundance of caution. It is important to note that after speaking with the family of the student and the Ionia County Health Department we have reason to believe that the student did not contract the virus while on school grounds. These students do not ride district provided transportation.”

Heath added, “A close contact is typically someone being within 6 feet of an infected person for at least 15 minutes. As a district we are maintaining daily contact tracing documentation for this purpose. We have reviewed our documents and the parents of those students who were in “close contact” with these students will be notified this evening. These students will need to self quarantine for 14 days from the last known close contact with a positive COVID case. All other students with no or incidental contact will not need to quarantine.”

The email went on to say, “If you are required to quarantine because of an exposure, Ionia County Health Department (ICHD) will contact you. If your child does not qualify as a close contact, you will not hear from the ICHD or Portland Public Schools. We want to protect the confidentiality of our students and will not release the person’s identity. At this time, it is our role to tell all the families that we are moving forward under the guidance of ICHD and that all measures have been taken to protect the wellbeing of your child(ren). Please monitor for onset of symptoms related to COVID-19, including fever, cough, difficulty breathing, headache, or new fatigue. If you note any change in the health of your child, please call your regular medical provider.”

Heath added, “We will continue to work with the ICHD to ensure that we are doing everything to safely offer in-person instruction. We will continue to require all students to wear a facial covering, as described in the the Return To School Roadmap, and practice social distancing to the extent possible while on campus or while riding district provided transportation. If we learn at any time that there is a large scale spread of COVID-19 in our school community we will scale back our in-person offerings.”

In a follow up email to the Beacon, Heath said, “The Ionia County Health Department notified us around 4pm that we had two students in our High School test positive for COVID. The district is responsible for maintaining records of close contacts daily. This summer we spent countless hours developing protocols to keep track of these records. Contact tracing is not easy, but our system was successful tonight. We have roughly 80% of our students showing up to school daily with the rest being virtual. Our district has one of the highest in-person attendance rates in the area. Having a positive COVID case in any building with our number of students attending could result in large numbers of close contacts. Today, our planning for this school year worked and we were able to keep that close contact at school to be less than 30 students. I am very proud of the planning and implementation by all of our staff. There is no question their efforts minimized the impact from these two cases. Education is not an easy job and this year it is twice, if not three times, as hard. Today's positive cases are a reminder to everyone that we need to do our part in helping prevent the spread of COVID-19."

The Beacon will share additional details on this situation as they become available.

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