Mid-Michigan schools reporting growing number of COVID-19 cases among students and staff

Not all cases are considered to be part of outbreaks
Published: Sep. 21, 2020 at 6:37 PM EDT
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LANSING, Mich. (WILX) - The number of COVID-19 cases in K-12 schools is increasing statewide; forcing schools to quickly transition to different learning environments.

On Monday, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services said local health departments were tracking 28 new coronavirus outbreaks.

The only new outbreak reported in Mid-Michigan was at St. Martha Catholic School in Meridian Township, where there are six cases of COVID-19 among students and staff. David Kerr, spokesman for the Dioceses of Lansing, said the school switched to virtual learning last week and plan to continue in-person instruction September 29.

On Monday, Concord Community Schools closed after a staff member who wasn’t showing any symptoms tested positive for COVID-19. Concord superintendent Becky Hutchinson said this staff member didn’t work with students and no students were told to quarantine. The Jackson County Health Department said classes can continue in-person Tuesday.

Good Afternoon, Concord Schools will be open tomorrow. I appreciate your patience today as we were alerted very early...

Posted by Concord Community School District on Monday, September 21, 2020

Hutchinson said this case isn’t connected to a third level exposure some students and staff were alerted to Friday.

Also Monday, Michigan Center Public Schools posted a letter to Facebook stating a high school student has coronavirus. Superintendent Brady Cook said contact tracing is complete and students are safe to return to school-unless otherwise told to quarantine.

MDHHS did correct its outbreak reporting website to reflect an outbreak at Michigan Center’s Arnold Elementary, with six cases among students and staff. The outbreak was originally listed at Keicher Elementary. However, Cook told News 10 Monday there are only five cases at Arnold and one staff member at Keicher confirmed to have coronavirus.

Every Springport Public Schools student is now learning remotely for two weeks.

Important information for ALL Springport Families and students. Please read!

Posted by Springport Elementary School on Sunday, September 20, 2020

The Jackson County Health Department made the recommendation because at least one student in each of the district’s three schools has COVID-19. On Monday, these were not considered outbreaks because the cases are in different schools.

“I would expect it to be the Jackson district or something like that. I definitely didn’t think Springport would be so closely affected with it,” said Brittnay Kyles, who has two children attending Springport Elementary.

Kyles said she’s worried her kids will struggle to learn during the temporary change to online classes.

“My kids, they are already kind of behind, so they need that face to face. They need a teacher to sit in front of them and explain things,” she said.

Springport Public Schools Superintendent Bob Cassiday said it wasn’t a matter of if, but when COVID-19 would hit classrooms.

"I was really hoping the “when” wouldn’t happen for several more months when cold weather comes along and everyone has to huddle together," said Cassiday.

Cassiday decided to go to remote learning while doing contact tracing for the three students.

“All of a sudden, you have pretty much a spider web of cross-contamination and exposure,” he said.

Jackson County Health Officer Rashmi Travis said parents need to realize students can get coronavirus from more than just the classroom.

“It’s not just necessarily the school building or school environment, but what might be going on after school or after hours. And we take into account what’s going on in the community as a whole,” said Travis.

Since those students also participated in sports, the school is trying to figure out how to keep the seasons going.

“To see how maybe they can juggle schedules around so the other teams can fill in the slots we are missing out on,” he said.

Cassiday said he was pleased with how everyone followed the new rules during the first home football game Friday night. Springport Public Schools plan to return students to in-person learning on Oct. 5.

MDHHS said school related outbreaks occur when “local health departments have two or more COVID-19 cases who may have shared exposure on school grounds and are from different households.”

The cases in this story at Concord Community Schools, Springport Public Schools and Michigan Center High School don’t fit that definition as of Monday night.

MDHHS updates its list of school-related outbreaks on Mondays by 3 p.m.

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