Superintendent: ‘We feel very safe about opening the doors tomorrow’

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Health director Shaun McAuliffe and Hopkinton Public Schools superintendent Carol Cavanaugh, appearing on HCAM’s Hopkinton Hangout Hour on Wednesday night, provided more details on the situation at Hopkinton High School that led to all schools in town being closed the past two days.

Two HHS students tested positive in the past week, leading to the closure of the schools for Tuesday and Wednesday while contact tracing was performed to identify others with whom the infected students had come in contact.

Cavanaugh said she was not allowed to divulge how many students have been quarantined, but she said the town is fortunate to have avoided a potentially serious situation, with schools set to reopen Thursday.

“It came out a whole lot better than we hoped,” she said. “At first we thought this could be very dismal, and it wasn’t. … We feel very safe about opening the doors tomorrow, given where we are.”

Added Cavanaugh: “We could have had an outbreak in Hopkinton High School that would have been enormous. That’s not our case. I think we erred on the side of caution [by closing school for two days] and it was a really smart move for us.”

McAuliffe said there are four recent cases in town in the past week, and they all are related to an event outside of town.

“Three of the cases are directly related to a set of significant clusters in the commonwealth of Massachusetts,” he said. “So to be clear, these three cases have nothing to do with anything that’s going on within the community. They are directly related to the fact that people are involved in high-risk activities outside of the town. And that’s the risk they’re taking. And those risks inherently become our risks at some point.”

Added McAuliffe: “Two of the cases are directly related to an organized event that wasn’t being completed in accordance with the specific guidelines — that’s my understanding. The other related case, it’s related to that activity, then there’s some other stuff that I can’t get into.”

McAuliffe said it’s not surprising that some cases have cropped up, but he hopes that it will be just a “speed bump” in the town’s management of the pandemic. He noted that neighboring Holliston “had a couple of bad events,” and “that’s all it takes” for a town to drop into the red category on the state’s town-by-town chart — which means increased restrictions on gatherings (including school).

“It would be foolish for anybody to believe that we’re going to be able to insulate ourselves from what’s going on around us,” McAuliffe said.

The bottom line, McAuliffe said, is that everyone needs to take the guidelines seriously so that they don’t put the whole town in jeopardy.

“This goes back to what we’ve been saying the whole time: If we continue to do what we’re supposed to by reducing our exposure to high-risk activities, if we’re wearing our face coverings, distancing, good hygienic practices, we’re going to be OK as a community,” he said.

McAuliffe made a request for residents to respect others’ privacy and avoid sharing the identity of those with COVID. He also asked people — especially those on social media — to stop trying to shame others because they suspect they might not be strictly adhering to the COVID guidelines.

“The three children that are part of these clusters, it was nothing that they did,” McAuliffe said. “So for people to go out and start identifying them … that doesn’t do anybody any good. The families and the children are dealing with enough trauma. They don’t need this on top of that.”

Quickly touching on the topic of Halloween and what the town might advise regarding trick-or-treating, McAuliffe sounded a positive tone.

“It’s looking good,” he said. “It’s looking very good for a traditional Halloween.”

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