More than 30 WHS students and staff quarantined after positive COVID-19 case

Kendyl Bolinder | @BolinderKendyl

More than 30 WHS students and three staff members were sent home to quarantine on Tuesday after a student received a positive COVID-19 test.

As of now, the people quarantined include the entirety of the cross country team, students who had prolonged or unmasked contact and anyone knowingly exposed to the individual outside of school. Some students from other schools in the district are also required to quarantine.

The Wabaunsee County Health Department is currently investigating the case, and working with USD 329 administrators to contact trace as accurately as possible. 

According to Wabaunsee County health director Ray Finley, the definition of close contact with an individual is to be within six feet of them for at least 10 minutes, and that is the foundation of who is considered to be exposed when doing contact tracing. He said that the risk of a virus spreading is higher for things like athletics. When someone is breathing harder or coughing and sneezing, the particles from their respiratory system travel 2-3 times further. Finley said he did not send home anyone who had contact with the individual in a mask-wearing setting, unless they were within 6 feet for 10 minutes or longer. 

“What I’m trying to do is keep the school as open as possible. That is the idea behind sending people home, and who and how we select.” Finley said.

He said a big part of the investigation is that people are open and honest during interviews.

 “If three people from a certain group tell three different stories, we have to trust the one that outlines the greatest contact,” Finley said.

Most students are anticipated to return on October 9, 14 days after the last known exposure to the virus.

The 14 day quarantine is due to the virus’ incubation period. If symptoms have not developed by then, students will be permitted to come back to school. They cannot return before that time, even if they receive a negative test.

Students in quarantine are expected to continue school work from home using the remote learning format laid out at the beginning of the school year.

“We already have had remote learners since the beginning of the year. In some classrooms, remote learning has been solid. All of the staff is prepared to do that, although it does take time to transition to a hybrid model environment, so it may not be seamless instantly,” Principal Jan Hutley said.

As for activities affected, cross country will potentially miss multiple meets, but should return to action October 15 for the Mid-East League meet at home. Members of both the volleyball and football teams are quarantined, but schedules have not been affected.

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