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COVID-19 numbers increase in local schools

HANCOCK — In a Wednesday email, Superintendent Steve Patchin stated that to date, four Hancock Public Schools students that have tested positive for COVID-19. No staff have tested positive. Currently, and no students have been identified as testing positive for COVID-19 at Barkell Elementary.

At the same time, in a communique from Lake Linden-Hubbell Public Schools Superintendent, Brad Codere, reported on Wednesday that he was notified by the Western Upper Peninsula District Health Department (WUPHD) that a student in that district’s elementary school is reported as a “probable positive” case. Codere explained that a probable positive person is a contact of a known positive case and has become symptomatic.

“Due to this notification,” said Codere, “contact tracing was done, and the proper steps have been taken. The WUPHD remains involved and the situation is being monitored.”

In his Wednesday update, Patchin said said over that over the weekend, the WUPHD received quite a few positive COVID-19 test results for individuals in the local area. Once they receive the individual names, he added, they can begin contact tracing to determine who they have been engaged with during the 48 hours before they tested positive, or 48 hours before they began experiencing symptoms related to COVID-19.

“Once they have this information, they identify if they are K-12 students or staff members, then they contact us,” Patchin explained. “The Hancock School District leadership team is asked to track activities of those students testing positive, identifying each student (who) has been in extended contact in the last 48 hours at our school. Extended contact is defined as being within six feet of the individual for longer than 15 minutes. We then work with the health department professionals to determine which students or staff should quarantine and for how long.”

Patchin said that once the district team receives the list, there are a number of actions that can be taken:

• If the student is not a school, call the parents to explain the situation, tell them to self-quarantine and when they are allowed back in school (determined by the WUPHD)

• If the student is in school, notify them that they need to leave school and self-quarantine, tell them when they are allowed to return to school, and call parents to pick them up if needed. They will not be allowed to take the bus home.

• We will then provide the WUPHD a list of parent names and phone numbers, allowing them to contact you for information and provide you with an opportunity to ask questions regarding the quarantine. We are required to do this by law.

Currently, Patchin said, several Hancock students are in quarantine, as a family member has tested positive for the virus.

“We have several students in quarantine due to being in close contact with students that have tested positive,” he went on. “We have students quarantine because they were exposed to a fellow student with symptoms who lives in a household where a family household member tested positive.”

There have been some questions about other students in the household needing to self-quarantine if one of their siblings is quarantining, he added. “Here are our instructions from the Health Department:”

• If there is a member of the household that tests positive, then all those living in the household are asked to quarantine for two weeks from the date the individual testing positive began experiencing symptoms.

• If a member of the household is quarantined because they came in contact with an individual testing positive for COVID-19 but the member of the household is not experiencing any symptoms, then others in the household do not need to quarantine and may continue to come to school.

• If the quarantine member of the household begins to experience symptoms, then the health department may quarantine the whole house. That is a WUPHD decision.

“Our district will continue to deliver instruction to our students using face-to-face instruction following the protocols provided by Governor (Gretchen) Whitmer’s Return to Learn Advisory Council,” said Patchin. “Our teachers are continuing to develop their instructional delivery synchronous/asynchronous option. Thanks for your patience as we continue to improve this option. This allows us to continue to engage our students in learning, including those students that are sick or in quarantine.”

Codere in his email said that Lake Linden-Hubbell Schools will continue their focus on disinfecting and sanitizing.

“Everyone has been very good about facial coverings up to this point,” said Codere, “and we need to remain diligent in our efforts as a school and a community to help mitigate the spread of the virus.”

Students should remain home if they feel ill, he added, and frequently washing hands or using hand sanitizer are small things that can make a big difference during this time.

Students should remain home if they feel ill and frequently washing hands or using hand sanitizer are small things that can make a big difference during this time. 

Should the number of positive COVID-19 cases continue to rise, it is possible that Whitmer may move the current Phase 5 school re-opening plan to Phase 4, Patchin said.

“If this occurs, per our Return to Learn Plan,” he said, “we will continue to educate our students with face-to-face instruction.”

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