Oak Grove Elementary School in the Turner School District will return to online learning on Friday, Oct. 9, because of COVID-19 cases and exposures among staff and students, according to an announcement today from the Unified Government Health Department.
The latest exposures took place Oct. 5, according to a Health Department news release, and students will return to in-person learning on Tuesday, Oct. 20, which is 14 days after the most recent known exposure.
This temporary measure is the best way to curb further COVID-19 cases and potential exposure within the school, according to Dr. Allen Greiner, chief medical officer with the Unified Government Health Department.
“Students will return from in-person learning 14 days after the last known exposure. That is the duration of one incubation period of the virus, meaning that by keeping people out for that length of time, we can provide the safest possible environment for the return of students and staff,” Dr. Greiner said in the news release.
According to the Health Department, there were seven confirmed cases at Oak Grove, including three staff members and four students. More than 100 students were exposed to COVID-19 at the school, the Health Department stated.
Turner District Superintendent Jason Dandoy stated that cases were identified between individuals who had contact at Oak Grove School.
No cases were attributed to transmission related to sporting events, Dr. Dandoy stated.
Although Turner High School is listed on the Health Department’s school case map as having eight student cases, more than Oak Grove, no cases were shown to be connected at the high school, according to Dr. Dandoy. The Health Department is allowing the high school to remain open.
The UG’s school case map shows COVID-19 cases at several schools throughout Wyandotte County. Turner Middle School had four student cases, according to the map. Carl Bruce Middle School in the KCK school district had three staff cases. Piper High School had six student cases. Piper Creek Elementary had three student cases and one staff case. Bonner Springs High School had two student cases. Plus, other school cases were reported throughout the county. The schools case map is at https://wyandotte-county-covid-19-hub-unifiedgov.hub.arcgis.com/.
A Health Department letter sent to those affected at the school said that Oak Grove parents and teachers should monitor themselves and their children for symptoms during the 14-day quarantine period that the school building is closed. If they develop symptoms, they should get a test. If they were exposed to a positive case, they should get tested seven to nine days after exposure, regardless of their symptoms, according to the letter.
According to the Health Department news release, the cases and exposures were identified and investigated through a close collaboration between the school nurse and the Health Department’s epidemiology and contact tracing staff.
“This serves as a reminder of both the importance of contact tracing and of partnerships to prevent and slow the spread of COVID-19. I’m incredibly proud of the hard work of our contact tracers and Epidemiologists during this unprecedented pandemic, and it’s amazing to see our school nurses and education leaders working closely with public health experts to protect our community,” Dr. Greiner said in a news release.
The Health Department, in collaboration with the school and the district, decided to transition to online learning temporarily due to the high number of COVID-19 exposures, according to the Health Department news release. All parents/guardians and families with students at Oak Grove Elementary have already been notified of the COVID-19 cases and the temporary transition. Anyone who has been exposed to COVID-19 at the school has been notified and instructed to quarantine at home, according to the Health Department news release.
The Health Department has worked closely with districts in Wyandotte County to help schools protect students, families, and teachers as much as is possible, according to the news release.
“Although we have worked closely with all of our school districts over the previous several months to help create environments that allow students, families, and teachers to remain as safe as is possible, health professionals do often worry about the potential for exposure within schools despite safety precautions,” Dr. Greiner said. “In this instance, we are extremely glad Public Health Department staff and USD 202 moved quickly to identify the exposure and work collaboratively to prevent further spread.”
During this period, Oak Grove Elementary will move to online learning. Teachers may go into the building to provide virtual education but must isolate themselves in their individual classrooms, according to the Health Department news release. No intermingling of school staff will be allowed during this time.
The Health Department is working with Oak Grove Elementary to provide testing next week for students and staff who have been exposed to COVID-19. Additionally, local public health experts are continuously collaborating with all area schools about COVID-19 precautions. Health Department leaders meet regularly with superintendents, and the Health Department epidemiology team works very closely with school nurses, according to a spokesman.
“This continuous interaction and outreach between UGPHD, school officials and school nurses is critically important to continuing to provide the best educational environment for our students as possible, with the biggest margin of safety against the spread of COVID-19,” said Juliann Van Liew, director of the Unified Government Public Health Department. “Both UGPHD and our schools are constantly assessing and re-assessing our protocols and dealing with unanticipated events – the best way to overcome these challenges and protect our students and teachers is through open communication and cooperative, unified action in cases like this.”
“Oak Grove and USD 202 have been working very closely with the Wyandotte County Health Department regarding COVID-19 cases and exposures affecting our schools,” Dr. Dandoy said in the news release. “Student safety is our top priority and while unfortunate, we hope this temporary measure will slow the spread of COVID-19 in our community. While students are away, Oak Grove will be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected. While we are disappointed not to work with our students in-person during this time, we are excited to provide opportunities for them to work with their teachers remotely. We know that these changes can be challenging and we will work to support students and families during this period. Oak Grove looks forward to seeing students return on October 20.”
More COVID-19 data for Wyandotte County, including the map of school-related COVID-19 cases, can be found on the COVID Hub at wycokck.org/COVID-19. Additional COVID-19 information can also be found by calling 3-1-1.
Free testing continues
Free COVID-19 tests are at the UG Health Department parking lot, 619 Ann Ave., Kansas City, Kansas. They are open from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday. No appointment is needed.
The tests are for those who live or work in Wyandotte County. Participants should bring something that shows their address or their work place, such as a piece of mail or a work badge.
The pop-up tests and the Health Department tests now open to asymptomatic people as well as those who have symptoms or have been exposed to COVID-19. People now can be tested without any symptoms. Check with the UG Health Department’s Facebook page to see if there have been any changes in the schedule because of the weather or for other reasons.
Case numbers in Wyandotte County
Wyandotte County reported an additional 52 COVID-19 cases on Thursday afternoon, for a cumulative total of 7,342, according to the Health Department’s COVID-19 website. There was no change Thursday in the number of deaths, at a total of 134.
The number of COVID-19 patients at the University of Kansas Health System was down a little Thursday morning, with 32 in the hospital, less than 34 on Wednesday; 11 in the intensive care unit, increased one from Wednesday; and six on ventilators, no change from Wednesday, according to Dr. Dana Hawkinson, medical director of infection prevention and control. KU Health System had 26 more patients who were in the recovery phase, an increase of one since Wednesday. HaysMed in Hays, Kansas, reported 22 COVID-19 inpatients, an increase of two from Wednesday.
Kids affected by the pandemic
The University of Kansas Health System doctors’ news conference on Thursday included a discussion about mood changes in children who are affected by the pandemic. Dr. Stephen Lauer and Dr. Danielle Johnson offered advice for parents on how to spot warning signs in children and information to help cope.
Dr. Lauer advised that children keep to a routine, with regular bedtimes and mealtimes. Disruptions from COVID-19 have had a big impact on students’ physical and mental health, he said. Getting back to a regular schedule and to normal rhythms of daily life will help, he said. Also, laying around is not good for anyone – getting up and doing something has a lot to do with mental health, he said.
Dr. Johnson said most children who went back to in-person school have shown a decrease in anxiety. The children need to keep social distancing and wearing a mask while in school, which could be hard for older students. Dr. Johnson advised parents to open conversations with troubled teens in non-threatening ways, asking if they’re struggling with anything, and reassuring them that the parents will be there for the teens.
Since there are a number of activities and gatherings not taking place in the COVID-19 era, Dr. Johnson advised families to create some new traditions for the holidays. Think about how to alter the usual holiday activities to stay safe from COVID-19.
The KU doctors’ news conference is at https://www.facebook.com/kuhospital/videos/947010969117657/.
The UG news release about Oak Grove Elementary School is at https://alpha.wycokck.org/files/assets/public/health/documents/covid/10082020localschoolonlinelearningtemporarily.pdf.
More information about testing is at https://wyandotte-county-covid-19-hub-unifiedgov.hub.arcgis.com/pages/what-to-do-if-you-think-you-have-covid-19.
The KDHE’s COVID-19 webpage is at https://www.coronavirus.kdheks.gov/.
The UG COVID-19 webpage is at https://alpha.wycokck.org/Coronavirus-COVID-19-Information.
The KC Region COVID-19 Hub dashboard is at https://marc2.org/covidhub/.
The CDC’s COVID-19 webpage is at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-nCoV/index.html.