By GARY LONG
A teacher and a student at a Los Fresnos elementary school tested positive for COVID-19 in the two weeks since Thanksgiving, but thanks to contact tracing the district is confident the two infections were not related, school officials said Thursday.
Students returned for in-person classes on Nov. 30. Late in the week, the teacher reported testing positive after having been in close contact with a relative who tested positive for the virus.
This week the student tested positive, but because of contact tracing officials are confident the teacher did not infect the student, Superintendent Gonzalo Salazar said. “Out of an abundance of caution” the district decided to return all five students in the class and the teacher to distance learning. Student and teacher are self isolating for 14 days.
“Through contact tracing after the student tested positive, we were able to determine that they were isolated cases, that they were not connected,” Salazar said. He said the district contacted Dr. James Castillo of the Cameron County Health Authority and with his input decided it would be best to return the students to home learning and the teacher to teaching from home.
Jimmy McDonough, executive director for academics, said that although Los Fresnos has had positive cases at all of its schools, “we’re not seeing the spikes here that they’re seeing in other parts of the country.” He said he thinks the reason is that people are following safety guidelines.
He and Salazar said Los Fresnos CISD has a set procedure any time a student, teacher or staff member tests positive for the coronavirus.
School officials go down the hallway of the classroom where the positive test occurred and inform all classrooms that it happened. Everyone affected is invited to a Zoom meeting about the incident that occurs after school hours. A similar Zoom meeting takes place for parents, and parents are informed via the Remind app.
It’s a time-consuming process but it keeps the community informed, Salazar said.
Both men urged people to continue to follow safety guidelines recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, especially mask wearing, hand-washing and social distancing.
“That’s what’s helping us keep schools open, and we’re so grateful for the parents’ help,” Salazar said.
McDonough, who underwent training for contact tracing at Johns Hopkins University over the summer, said even though the CDC has somewhat relaxed its recommendation for isolating after an infection, Los Fresnos is sticking with the “gold standard” of 14 days.