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Eagle County Schools issues letter confirming COVID-19 infections of staff prior to Battle Mountain opening

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August 27, 2020, 11:53 am

Dear families and staff of Eagle County School District,

Late last night, reporter John LaConte posted a partial story on the website edition of the Vail Daily with the headline, “Staff at Battle Mountain High School test positive for COVID-19; school listed as active outbreak area.” While technically accurate, the headline may give some readers the impression that there is a current outbreak and concern at the high school.

Phil Qualman

There is not a current outbreak at Battle Mountain High School. There is no cause for alarm. Our systems worked as planned.

The data the paper is reporting on comes from a website published by the state, https://covid19.colorado.gov/data. We’ll add this to our website. This is one of the tools designed to help with tracking disease spread. Two other media outlets and a concerned parent contacted the school district to inquire about the two cases. The Vail Daily did not contact the district for contextual information.

We conveyed the following to the one parent and two other reporters, and have since shared with the Vail Daily:

The incident happened before the start of the school year. No students were at risk. Public Health immediately cleared the facility as safe.

The cases involved two support (non-teaching) staff members who contracted the virus before the school year started. Our system worked as planned. One staff member developed symptoms over a weekend, called in sick to work on Monday (stay home if sick). They sought medical care with their primary care physician, who tested them for COVID (get tested). They remained in isolation until the results came back (same day). They cooperated with Public Health for contact tracing and identified two co-workers they had lunch with. Both coworkers were directed to self-quarantine and remain at home. One of them developed symptoms, was tested, and confirmed positive. The other did not develop symptoms.

All three employees remain on leave until they complete the quarantine and recovery period. Substitute staff members are filling in.

The building was and is disinfected nightly. Now that students are in session, teachers and staff sanitize high touch surfaces throughout the day.

All in all, it went according to plan: keep the ill out of school (stay home if sick), rapidly remove the symptomatic from public circulation (self-isolate/quarantine), get tested, contact trace, remove others who had close contact (closer than six-feet apart for more than 15 minutes), and thus contain the spread.

The school district immediately notified all staff at BMHS, the ECEA (teacher’s union), and district leadership including other principals but did not notify parents because school was not yet in session.

Outbreaks (two or more cases) will happen throughout the year. We have plans in place to manage them, and as a community, we should resist panic when they occur. With each outbreak, we will notify those directly impacted, which includes parents of students in that building, staff at that building, the Board of Education, district leadership, and ECEA leadership.

Community-wide notification will not be our practice. It only serves to increase anxiety and has little to no relevance for those who are not directly impacted. It is important to guard against emotional manipulation due to attention grabbing headlines, gossip, conspiracy theories online, and other such efforts that serve to increase fear during these anxious moments.

We’ve asked that the community “work together to learn together” and to collaborate with the district on a higher level so we can all navigate through these times with the least amount of undue stress and anxiety as possible.

We value our relationship with the Vail Daily and have asked that they hold off on late-night reporting until they’ve had a chance to reach out for clarifying context.

Here’s how Colorado Public Radio reported the news:
https://www.cpr.org/2020/08/26/colorado-coronavirus-cases-outbreaks-in-schools/

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