Summit School District cases spike before Thanksgiving, so officials ask families to stay vigilant during the holidays |

Summit School District cases spike before Thanksgiving, so officials ask families to stay vigilant during the holidays

Officials tout participation in COVID-19 vaccination and testing programs

Summit Middle School is pictured Nov. 12, 2020. A vaccine clinic with Pfizer doses for adults and kids will be held at the middle school Friday, Dec. 3.
Liz Copan/For the Summit Daily News

Editor’s note: The headline of this story has been updated to correct that cases reached a high point before Thanksgiving. Data from the past week is not yet available.

With the holiday season in full swing, Summit School District is feeling confident about its efforts to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 and is encouraging families to continue doing what they can to help keep their kids in the classroom.

District Physical Health Coordinator Elizabeth Edgar said the district typically mirrors what is going on with the virus in the community, meaning when the county sees a spike, so does the school district. She said it will be interesting to see what the numbers look like returning from the holiday break this week but that the district had its highest case numbers right before Thanksgiving. From Nov. 15-19, the district reported 43 positive cases.

Edgar encouraged anyone who is eligible to get vaccinated or to get a booster shot to help limit the spread, especially with a new variant of the virus emerging. She also said parents should keep kids home from school and get them tested when they show symptoms of illness. Masking, hand-washing and maintaining safe practices outside of school are also essential to minimizing the spread, Edgar said.

“I’d also thank everybody for continuing to wear masks and remind their kids that nobody likes wearing masks; it’s just part of what we have to do right now to be in school,” Edgar said. “I think we all hoped this year would be easier and different with COVID, but it’s been a different kind of hard.”

Edgar added that while quarantines have been limited, the district works hand in hand with the Summit County Public Health Department to coordinate quarantines. In the past few weeks, she said about 12 people have been identified to quarantine, mostly related to meal times or sporting activities.

Summit County Public Health Nurse Manager Lauren Gilbert said the county started vaccinating 5- to 11-year-old children Nov. 5, and they’re seeing a high number of kids registered to get their first shot this week.

According to Summit County’s online vaccine data, 24% of the county’s 5- to 11-year-olds have received at least one dose of the vaccine, and 95% of 12- to 15-year-olds have, as well. While it’s too early for 5- to 11-year-olds to be fully vaccinated, 81% of 12- to 15-year-olds are, and 95% of 16- to 19-year-olds are.

“Vaccinations help prevent the spread of the virus, and it keeps kids in school for in-person learning,” Gilbert wrote in an email. “We’ve done our best to make the vaccine available to (the 5-11) age group as soon as possible and on an ongoing basis.”

Gilbert encouraged anyone wary of the COVID-19 vaccines to talk with their health care providers. She said state data shows people who are vaccinated are 3.6 times less likely to catch the virus and more than 10 times less likely to be hospitalized from it.

In regard to the state’s testing program, Edgar said it has been running smoothly, and the number of folks getting tested has increased each week. She said the district is testing about 600 staff members and students weekly, and she encouraged more people to sign up for the program.

“I think that’s just another way for parents to know how their kids are doing and for us to catch it quickly,” Edgar said.

She said she thinks there are a lot of folks who don’t understand why they should get tested if they aren’t having symptoms, but she emphasized the benefit of catching cases earlier. Edgar said in some cases, the district has been able to identify people who might have been exposed before they test positive for the virus.

Edgar also said the testing has been running smoothly, with kids and staff members waiting about 5-10 minutes to get tested. Plus it pays: a $25 gift card for the first test and $10 for any test after that.

“It is another logistic for schools to coordinate, but in the context of where we’re at, I think it’s a great resource,” Edgar said. “It’s free to families, and it’s just another thing we can do.”

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