Education

School employees in Durham, Lexington test positive for COVID-19

At least two employees of North Carolina school districts distributing food and instructional materials to students have tested positive for COVID-19.

Durham Public Schools announced Thursday that an employee distributing meals and instructional materials at Bethesda Elementary School has tested positive for COVID-19.

And a cafeteria worker for Lexington City Schools learned of  a positive test Wednesday after being tested for the virus over the weekend.

DPS’s confirmation came a few hours after State Board of Education Chairman Eric Davis announced that several school districts had reported cases of employees testing positive for COVID-19.

Days earlier the N.C. Association of Educators asked the SBE and N.C. Department to clarify safety procedures for employees still working at schools.

“We ask the State Board of Education and the Department of Public instruction to further clarify their protocols for educational professionals around employee pay and worksite safety, and call on them to provide the appropriate precautions, protections, resources, and tools that educators need to do their jobs during these incredibly difficult times,” the NCAE said in a statement.

DPS officials said that out of an “abundance of caution” employees working at Bethesda were sent home and directed to contact the Durham County Health Department.

The employee and others working at school site regularly have their temperatures taken, DPS said. The temperature of the employee who tested positive was normal at the workplace, officials said.

DPS said the employee did not come to work after taking a COVID-19 test. DPS was notified late Wednesday of the positive test.

Since the district’s food distribution program began March 23, officials said protections for staff and families have steadily increased with the addition of more social distancing requirements, aggressive cleaning and the closing of most DPS worksites.

“Our highest priority is to keep our students, families, and staff safe during this COVID-19 response,” DPS Superintendent Pascal Mubenga said. “We continue to be grateful to all of our staff who have been supporting our students by providing school meals and instructional materials, and we will continue to strengthen our programs to ensure that they operate safely for all.”

The Bethesda site produces 400-500 meals for various feeding sites. About 100 meals are served at the school.

DPS Operational Services is evaluating what adjustments to make to the feeding program as a result of the positive test, officials said.

LCS suspended its food distribution program Wednesday for one day after the local health department confirmed the cafeteria worker’s positive test for COVID-19.

A statement from LCS Superintendent Anitra Wells said the employee was tested Sunday after feeling ill. The employee did not return to work after being tested. The test results came back Tuesday.

Child nutrition workers, volunteers and drivers in contact with the staff member have self-quarantined, Wells said.

This is a developing story.

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