Presumptive Coronavirus Cases Force Some School Closures in Massachusetts, New Hampshire

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Some schools in Massachusetts and New Hampshire have announced they will be closed Monday amid an increase in New England in the number of presumptive positive cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.

In Massachusetts, both Anne Ware Jackson Elementary School and Beatrice H. Wood Elementary School in Plainville will be closed after a parent of a student had a presumptive positive test result, according to the superintendent.

There's a similar situation in Arlington where a parent has a presumptive positive case of COVID-19. The woman, who is in her 40s and attended the Biogen employee conference in Boston, developed symptoms and tested positive for the virus. One of her children, who attends Stratton Elementary School, is showing symptoms and has been tested. Stratton Elementary School will be closed Monday while officials await test results on the student.

The second part in the household and the couple's other child, who attends the Gibbs School, are both symptom free but will remain in self-quarantine for 14 days.

“It is never an easy decision to close a school building. We are ever-mindful of childcare needs and family schedules, however we are faced with a challenging and uncertain situation,” Superintendent Kathleen Bodie said. “Without test results in hand, and with a parent who has tested positive for COVID-19, the leadership team in Arlington unanimously feels that it is best to close the Stratton on Monday and re-evaluate during the day."

Arlington health officials are also waiting on test results involving another Arlington family, a member of which also attended the Biogen conference, whose children attend school at Dallin Elementary, Gibbs, and Arlington High School. That family is in self-quarantine currently.

In accordance with DPH guidance, Arlington says all other schools besides Stratton will open Monday and operate normally.

In Newmarket, New Hampshire, schools will be closed Monday after a staff member was asked by the CDC to self-quarantine because she had traveled on a bus with someone who has since been diagnosed with the novel coronavirus. While that staff member, who is not a teacher, is not experiencing any symptoms, Superintendent Susan Givens said it was important to take this precaution "for the health and peace of mind for all members of the learning community."

Elsewhere across Massachusetts, it’s the same scenario playing out at schools like in Lexington, Natick, Weston and Newton: deep cleanings for coronavirus.

Natick High School was shut down Sunday and cleaned for a second time after a Natick resident has been confirmed to have a presumed case of COVID-19. The resident has kids who go to the high school. Those kids aren’t showing any symptoms, and have been out of school, but the school says they’re cleaning out of an abundance of caution. 

In Newton, a parent of a child at the Horace Mann Elementary School also has a presumed case. The student has not exhibited any symptoms and is following the quarantine protocol from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health until cleared to return to school. 

Newton schools, including Horace Mann, will be open Monday. Officials say they have strengthened cleaning protocols at all schools, with a focus on high tough points. In addition, the facilities department was set to conduct deep cleaning and disinfecting at Horace Mann prior to opening Monday.

In Weston, Massachusetts, schools will be open Monday, but they will not be holding two music concerts and all field trips for the week have been canceled after a parent of a middle school student tested positive for the virus. Officials say all schools were thoroughly cleaned over the weekend, and the middle school was disinfected and sanitized using Victory Electrostatic Sprayers.

All this as the Massachusetts Department of Public Health announced Sunday there are now 27 presumed cases in the state, along with the one confirmed case, bringing the total to 28. 

Fifteen of the latest cases, and 23 total, are tied to a biotech meeting for Biogen at the Long Wharf Marriott in the Seaport in late February. 

Of the 15 cases announced Sunday, five are people from Suffolk County ranging in age from 30-60, five are people from Middlesex County ranging in age from 40-60, four are people from Norfolk County ranging in age from 40-60, and one is a woman whose age and location is yet to be determined.

The coronavirus was also the topic of discussion Sunday at a Museum of Science town hall where the public got an opportunity the ask questions that matter to them. 

Many questions focused on the topic of working from home, and how employers are handling that. 

”If you are symptomatic, you need to stay home. That’s where businesses need to be generous and supportive of their staff, this is not business as usual, this is a public health challenge, that will challenge all of us to be our best selves,” said Tim Ritchie, the Museum of Science President. 

Health officials reiterate that the risk of COVID-19 to the general public in Massachusetts remains low at this time.

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