NED student tests positive for COVID-19


DUBOIS — The first report of a Dubois County student testing positive for COVID-19 came in Sunday night. 

The parent of a Northeast Dubois Elementary student called school officials Sunday to report their child's positive test result, setting in motion a flurry of protocols laid out in Northeast Dubois' school reopening plans. 

"We're doing the best we can and being as diligent as we can," Superintendent Bill Hochgesang said. "We think our protocols we put into place worked well."

As soon as the call came in, Hochgesang and other school administrators worked on contact tracing and called the parents of each close contact of the COVID-19-positive student. Each of those students must quarantine at home for 14 days from their last contact with the COVID-19-positive student.

Hochgesang declined to share how many students were affected, but shared how close contacts are determined. "Close contact" refers to anyone who is within 6 feet of a COVID-19-positive person for 15 minutes or more. On a school bus, close contacts are those who sit in the seat in front of, behind or to the side of a COVID-19-positive student. In a classroom, which students will be considered close contacts depends on where the COVID-19-positive student's desk sits in a room. If a COVID-19-positive student sits in the middle of classroom, there will be more close contacts than if the student sits on the end of a row, Hochgesang explained. Where the student sits in the cafeteria will also determine which classmates are close contacts. 

For contact tracing, students' assigned seats are a must. 

"That's a big thing in being able to do that contact tracing," Hochgesang said.

Once school officials identified the close contacts, they called each of the parents. Although the parents will also get calls from the Indiana State Department of Health, Hochgesang said school officials wanted families to hear the news from them first.

The contact tracing process took about six hours, Hochgesang said.

Now, the students who are close contacts move to e-learning instruction until they are clear to return to school. To return to school, the students must quarantine without COVID-19 symptoms for 14 days after their last contact with the COVID-19-positive student. 

If the quarantined students show COVID-19 symptoms, their parents will need to inform the school. For now, though, it's a waiting game. 

"We're hoping we contained it," Hochgesang said. 

Although there was a positive COVID-19 case, additional cleaning of the school buildings was not necessary, Hochgesang said. By the time the call came Sunday night, facilities had already been sanitized as part of the regular enhanced cleaning that is part of school reopening plans. Under the plans, school buildings are already sanitized after each school day, and buses are sanitized after each route. 

Hochgesang stressed that the parents' call to school administrators was key in the quick response. Had the parents not called, Hochgesang said, it could have been Monday or Tuesday before the school heard about the positive case from the state health department. By that point, the close contacts of the COVID-19  positive students would already be back in school. 

"We really appreciate [the call] because it speeds up the process," Hochgesang said. 

Going forward, school officials will continue to follow their reopening plans and safety protocols. They will also continue to work closely with the Dubois County Health Department and state health officials. 

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