Health officials: increase in cases expected

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COVID-19 cases, quarantine close Carrollton Schools for at least a week

By Carol McIntire

Editor

County health officials are not surprised by the recent increase in COVID-19 cases.

“We knew we would see an increase when schools started,” said Kelly Engelhart, director of nursing at the Carroll County General Health District in a report to county commissioners Sept. 10. “We are working on how to monitor those who were in contact with the student or staff that is a confirmed case.”

There were two active cases of COVID-19 in the county the week of Sept. 2. That number increased to 13 active cases last week. Engelhart noted all the cases were related to students and staff in Carrollton and Minerva schools. There were 177 people quarantined, all related to the 11 cases.

The increase in cases prompted Carrollton Schools Superintendent Dr. David Quattrochi to move all buildings in the district to remote this week. Quattrochi sent out an all-call to parents Sept. 10 letting them know the change would be for at least one week unless COVID-19 cases increase.

At the time of the call, six staff members and 14 students were affected or probable and 11 were out COVID-19 symptoms and awaiting results.  One hundred forty six students and staff were on quarantine.

“Multiple students are being sent home every day,” he stated. “However, according to the governor’s order we are allowed to continue with extra-curricular activities and sporting events will continue until further notice.”

During the Sept. 10 call Commissioner President Bob Wirkner started a conversation with Engelhart, who was present via phone, to alleviate fears about schools not being safe.

Wirkner said he spoke with Tom Cottis, county Emergency Management Agency (EMA) director, who assured him all guidelines are in place in schools in Carroll County and schools are safe.

“Social distancing is in place, students and staff are wearing masks the water fountains have been eliminated,” Engelhart noted. “We worked with the schools individually and did a walk-through of each building.

“In reality, the number we are seeing now are the same level we saw in July. I think the schools are doing a fabulous job to minimize the spread of the virus,” she stated. “One family had exposure and it spread from there. It’s community spread and it’s not uncommon. Now we are seeing more cases. The schools are safe, but they are a congregate setting with face-to-face learning so there is a chance of transmission.”

Engelhart spoke about the new reporting requirements for schools.

“It’s a three-fold program,” she explained. “Parents are required to report all positive tests to the school, the school is required to report cases to the county health department and the health department is required to report cases to the state, which is putting together a dashboard for school cases, just as they did for other cases.”

She noted individual schools are working on their own dashboard to be made public on websites to keep parents updated.

At this point, Engelhart said she was not aware of any cases in Malvern and Conotton Valley schools.

The health department continues to offer COVID-19 testing as well as antibody testing.

In August, six antibody tests were completed and 25 COVID-19 tests.

“We are starting to transition to planning for vaccine distribution. We are hearing it could be available as early as November in very limited supplies. The initial vaccine could be frozen., which is something different than we are used to. We are working to increase our storage capacity,” Engelhart explained.

The district is also working on plans to distribute the vaccination to the general population when it becomes available.

“This is different for us because we are used to bringing people together to vaccinate people. We can’t do that this time,” she explained.

The district continues to work on the compliance process with local businesses. For those not following the guidelines, the district is using a three-strike process.

When the first two complaints about a business are received, health district personnel work to educate business personnel. The third complaint will result in an inspection of the business. If a violation is found, the owner will be required to attend an administrative hearing before the board of health.

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