Several employees at a Florida high school have isolated for 14 days after they were exposed to COVID-19 on campus, according to an email from the principal.
“We were alerted today that we had a confirmed case of COVID-19 on our campus,” Carl Auckerman, principal of Palmetto High School in Manatee County, said in a message to families on Wednesday evening.
The school district and the Florida Department of Health in Manatee County launched an investigation, known as contact tracing, and found that “a number of school employees” had direct exposure to the infected person, the email continues.
“Direct exposure” means someone was within six feet of a person with COVID-19 for at least 15 minutes, according to the district’s guidance, which mirrors recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Word of the exposures began to circulate on social media. Before obtaining a copy of the email from a parent, the Bradenton Herald contacted district spokesman Mike Barber to verify whether COVID-19 had affected Palmetto High or other campuses.
“Our plan is to provide a weekly update on Fridays, just like the one we sent out last week,” he responded, offering no confirmation of the Palmetto High exposures.
When pressed for answers, he responded with a one-sentence email: “The people impacted have been notified.”
Based on the principal’s email, it seems the infected person was a school employee, but it was unclear how many employees were exposed and sent home on Wednesday.
“The individual associated with the confirmed case is also isolated according to district protocols,” Auckerman wrote. ”The portion of the campus where the confirmed case works will be fogged and sanitized today. Employees who did not have Direct Exposure to the confirmed case will be back at work tomorrow.”
Teachers and paraprofessionals returned to work on Aug. 3 for training and preparations before the 2020-21 school year. Students are slated to begin on Monday, whether they chose a full return to campus, full-time online classes or the hybrid schedule, which includes both in-person and online classes.
A COVID-19 exposure surfaced on Aug. 3, the first day for educators, forcing six employees at Samoset Elementary to isolate for 14 days. At least four other cases have come to light since that time, according to a recent statement from the district:
Ballard Elementary: An employee tested positive and exposed one co-worker.
Harllee Center: An employee tested positive and exposed one co-worker.
School Support Center: An employee tested positive and exposed one co-worker.
Buffalo Creek Middle School: An employee tested positive and exposed three co-workers. In this case, Barber said the exposures happened on July 30, before educators returned to campus.
In his email on Wednesday evening, Auckerman assured families that Palmetto High was sanitized on a daily basis, and that temperature checks and face masks were commonplace in the new school year.
“While this is a setback, I want to assure you our school will be ready and excited for the first day of school on Monday,” the principal wrote.