The Mitchell School District confirmed Thursday that five students have tested positive for COVID-19 since July 1.
Joe Graves, superintendent for the Mitchell School District, told the Mitchell Republic that the cases were traced to non-school activities, but the students are not participating in summer activities at this time.
“Between early July and this last week we’ve had five of our student activities participants be tested and test positive for COVID-19,” Graves said. “None of them were traced to school settings.”
Activities in which the infected students participated include competitive dance and cheer, volleyball and marching band, Graves said. Parents with students involved in those activities were informed of the situation if the infected students participated in those events within two days of the time their child participated in the activity.
District patrons whose children are not involved in those activities were not informed of the infections, but that is something that will change as the school year gets underway in earnest. With the majority of students expected back in school buildings, infections will be reported regularly across the district, Graves said.
The affected students are either currently in quarantine or have completed their quarantine time. Graves said students hoping to return to activities will need to complete quarantine and submit a form from a physician stating that the student is no longer infectious. He said he expects the five students will have completed any necessary requirements for them to return to classes at the start of the year, which is a little under two weeks away.
While Graves said he did not know the immediate condition of the five students, he said that none of them had been hospitalized.
The positive tests were relayed to the school district through either the students themselves or their parents. The South Dakota Department of Health also informs school districts of positive cases to keep them apprised of infections, though Graves said the district was aware of the infections through parents and students first, with the department of health confirming it shortly after.
Graves said while any number of cases is disappointing, five positive cases over the course of about a month was not completely unexpected. With much of the country beginning to open up after prolonged closures, transmissions will likely be on the rise, he said.
“I would say this is about what we’ve been expecting. The virus is still out there, the community and society is opening up, and no question, as it opens up transmissions are going to increase,” Graves said.
With the cases traced to sources outside the school district, Graves said that he believes the safety measures the district has taken are helping prevent the spread of the disease. It is a matter of managing expectations and staying the course with safety protocols.
“They’re working fairly well, but judging that is based on expectations. If you expect no transmission in Mitchell, yeah, we’re going to fail because that’s not going to happen,” Graves said. “It’s a virus and it’s going to continue no matter what we do, but I will say the steps the district has taken and the communication with the department of health are working as well as we expected them to work.”
Classes are scheduled to resume with students in the classroom Aug. 19. Graves said the Mitchell Board of Education is likely to discuss the five cases at its next meeting Aug. 10. The board has been reviewing return to school plans, frequently asked questions about the reopening as well as activities and music plans at its recent meetings and he expects they will continue to do so at the meeting Monday.
“At any point in those discussions those issues may come up,” Graves said.