GREENSBORO — While public health officials reported more COVID-19 clusters at local schools this week, one private school disputed the designation and Guilford County Schools’ online dashboard also lacked up-to-date information about them.
Grimsley High School and High Point Friends School appeared on the list of ongoing COVID-19 clusters in a state report released Tuesday.
As defined by the state, clusters are a minimum of five confirmed COVID-19 cases associated with schools or day cares. Those cases are detected within a 14-day period with “plausible epidemiological linkage.” That means those who tested positive were together in the same area at the same time when exposure to the disease was likely.
The report from the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services said the Grimsley cases involve one staff member and four students.
School district spokesman Janson Silvers on Wednesday confirmed the cluster, stating that it stemmed from cases involving the football program.
However, as of Wednesday afternoon, Grimsley was not included on the portion of the school district’s dashboard that lists clusters.
Silvers said Wednesday afternoon he was looking into why that cluster wasn’t listed, but it did appear on the website by Wednesday evening.
That dashboard showed 17 students and two staff members at Grimsley had active cases of the coronavirus as of Wednesday evening. However, these cases are not necessarily traced directly to each other or to a contact within a school setting.
As far the cluster dashboard, Silvers said updating that takes more time because “it’s just such a different process and it’s not routine. I think it’s just a case of we’re making sure everything is right.”
At High Point Friends, the state reported a cluster involving nine cases, five among staff and four connected to children. No one from the school responded to messages seeking comment on Wednesday.
The state’s report also indicated that Greensboro Academy had five new cases among children in a cluster previously reported there, for a total of 12 cases.
In an email, Greensboro Academy principal Tracey Duhaime said Wednesday: “Although we have had cases at Greensboro Academy, we do not meet the definition of a cluster as there is no plausible epidemiologic linkage between cases. At this time we do not have any students quarantining because of a positive test result.”
A representative with the Guilford County health department did not respond to an email regarding the school’s dispute about the cluster designation.
The state’s report is based on information sent by local health departments. In past reports, some clusters at Guilford County private schools were later determined to be erroneous.
Also on Wednesday, Silvers, the Guilford County Schools spokesman, explained the process the district takes to notify parents and the community when a positive COVID-19 case arises.
When a school principal learns of a positive case, they submit details to an online portal where public health data on COVID-19 cases is collected.
The principal also will notify students in the classroom and their families where the positive case was identified.
While the case is pending, public health officials will reach out to the person who tested positive to assign them isolation periods and identify and confirm close contacts.
These health officials also might reach out to school principals for help identifying close contacts.
Parents of students identified as close contacts will receive a text message or call from the state alerting them of quarantine dates.
A public health nurse also will call to verify and confirm those dates.
Isolation involves a sick person confining themselves to a specific room within their home, while quarantine involves the person who was exposed staying away from others to see if they become sick, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Quarantine might be overridden by public health officials in certain circumstances, such as if the individual is fully vaccinated and did not have symptoms of the disease.
When a case is closed, public health officials notify the principal by email.
The principals also can now see what the dates are for isolation and quarantine periods, Silvers said.
Contact Kenwyn Caranna at 336-373-7082 and follow @kcaranna on Twitter.