Dozens of Hampstead students are in quarantine because they were exposed to someone with the coronavirus during a lacrosse tournament in Spartanburg, SC, Aug. 15-16, a Pender County Health Department official confirmed Friday.
Pender County Schools announced the quarantine in a press release late Thursday but did not mention the lacrosse tournament or its location. The tournaments was not a school-sponsored event.
As many as 50 students were asked to quarantine, PCS spokesman Alex Riley said Friday. That includes tournament participants, siblings and acquaintances, he said.
“In the overall scheme of things in term of the reach of it, with students who were directly in contact, then going back home and possibly exposing their siblings and friends who might have come by their house to visit, I would say approximately 50 students [were asked to quarantine or stay home],” Riley said.
Roughly 20 of the 50 or more students asked to quarantine attended the tournament, Riley said. None of the quarantined students has tested positive. Health Department officials have encouraged students and members of their families to get tested. The students will follow Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance and remain home at least 14 days.
Here’s the news release issued by the district:
In consultation with the Pender County Health Department and out of an abundance of caution for the safety and welfare of our students, teachers and staff, students at several Hampstead area schools have been advised to quarantine at home after participating in an off-campus, recreational athletic event where exposure to a contagious individual with COVID-19 may have taken place.
PCHD is continuing to investigate this potential exposure and will work with families as necessary to provide medical guidance.
Pender County Schools will continue to collaborate with PCHD for the latest guidance relating to the health and safety of our students, teachers and staff. PCS and PCHD also encourage families to follow state-issued safety guidelines, including wearing masks, washing hands and practicing social distancing to help mitigate the potential spread of coronavirus. Additionally, if any families or staff members become aware that they may have been in contact with individuals who have tested positive or are showing symptoms related to COVID-19, please contact your child’s principal immediately.
The school district reopened Tuesday to a mix of in-person instruction and remote learning after a a one-day delay to allow teachers more time to adjust to on-line instruction.
It’s not clear whether students asked to quarantine attended school this week for in-person instruction.
“I honestly cannot answer that,” said Shirley Steele, director of nursing for the health department.
Steele said tournament participants included students across many grade levels. Hampstead has a reputation for producing quality players. Nine lacrosse players from Topsail High School signed letters of intent to play the sport in college in 2019.
Riley said the district will keep a close watch on Hampstead schools with an internal dashboard that shows “who’s symptomatic, who’s tested positive” and who’s been exposed to the virus.
Any decision to pivot to remote learning-only at schools attended by quarantined students would come after a review of the data, Riley said.
The district has 18 schools. Seven of them are in Hampstead.
“We can break it down by schools, review it and relay that information to the Board of Education,” Riley said. “If there needs to be a decision made, we’d call an emergency meeting but at this time, we’ll follow the health department’s guidance on what they think is best. Those schools will continue to operate under Plan B until we’re told otherwise.”
Gov. Roy Cooper directed districts to reopen under Plan B, which is a mix of in-person instruction and remote learning. It’s one of three reopening options Cooper asked schools to prepare for over the summer. Cooper also gave districts the option to open under Plan C, which is remote-only instruction. Plan A would have allowed schools to fully reopen.
Pender County Schools has already delayed in-person instruction at Heide Trask High School due to coronavirus-related concerns. The school will only provide remote learning there until Aug. 28 due to trouble filling vacancies, finding substitutes for teachers who requested leave and recent COVID-19 exposures by several staff members.