Superintendent Carol Cavanaugh and town health director Shaun McAuliffe issued a joint statement Wednesday to address the surge in COVID cases at Hopkinton High School.
“We are finding that students are testing positive for the virus at rates that have not occurred before,” the statement reads. “While it might feel to some that students are unsafe at the high school, please note that we have not identified any student-to-student transmission in that building. Not a single HHS case since September. The current transmissions of the virus we are seeing have all been traced to events outside of school. As Commissioner [Jeffrey] Riley has frequently stated, ‘schools have been open for in-person learning safely, even in communities with high prevalence,’ and that is true because our schools adhere to mitigation strategies.
“In consultation with the school nurses, we have learned that each of these recent student cases can be traced to some activity outside of Hopkinton High School. In some cases COVID-19 was spread within an individual family. In other cases there have been social activities where students are gathering and transmitting the virus to one another.
“We also wish to remind families of what it means to quarantine. When quarantining, students need to remain at home. While quarantined students are not permitted to attend school, they should also not engage in athletic, social or family activities. Naturally, when quarantining as a ‘close contact,’ there might be a tendency to think of quarantining as a perfunctory matter; however, if a ‘close contact’ becomes positive, that person may have inadvertently infected others. In short, quarantining must be taken very seriously.
“So, too, must watching for symptoms be taken seriously. If a person has symptoms, that person should not report to school, should not engage in activities, but should call their primary care physician. Immediately. Although it might seem that the symptoms are merely allergies or simply the byproduct of getting too little sleep, we are finding that people with symptoms are testing positive for COVID-19. When people have symptoms, they should call the doctor.
“We understand that we just enjoyed February vacation. We know that last week there was unseasonably warm weather, which may have led to increased social interactions between teens. Many people have received at least one dose of the vaccine, if not two, perhaps making people feel freer in their behaviors. Finally, we have surpassed the one year onset of the pandemic, a reminder of how long people have been asked to wear masks and stay within a confined social bubble. In short, it is perfectly understandable that people wish to be liberated in their activities, to be interacting with friends, and to be enjoying the emergence of spring.
“That said, it has perhaps never been more important in Hopkinton to adhere to mask wearing, social distancing, staying in your social bubble. The coronavirus is still here. When teens are socializing and unmasked, it is very easy for this virus to spread. We are asking that every family and every student do their part to stop the spread. This is the only way to keep students in our classrooms and athletes on our fields.”