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One COVID-19 case at Hardy Elementary

An individual at Hardy Elementary School has tested positive for COVID-19.

But in-person instruction will continue, according to a letter Isle of Wight County Schools Superintendent Dr. Jim Thornton sent to parents and employees on Oct. 15.

The letter doesn’t specify whether the infected individual is a student or employee, but assures that “all areas where the individual was located” will be cleaned and disinfected in compliance with U.S. Centers for Disease Control guidelines.

“We are working diligently to identify any students and staff who had close contact with the individual to determine if they may have had exposure to the virus that causes COVID-19,” Thornton said. “If you or your child are identified as having been potentially exposed, an official with Isle of Wight County Schools will contact you to ask that you please stay home and monitor for symptoms of cough, shortness of breath, or a temperature higher than 100.4ºF, and practice social distancing for 14 days from your last contact. If you are not contacted by an IWCS official, you do not need to stay home or exclude yourself from activities at this time.”

This is the second letter concerning COVID-19 exposure Thornton has sent Hardy parents and employees since the school reopened Sept. 8. The first, dated Sept. 17, said an employee would be entering a 14-day quarantine as a result of coming into close contact with someone outside of work who had tested positive for the virus.

In both letters, Thornton told parents and employees that “people without symptoms do not need to seek care or be tested.” According to Lynn Briggs, spokeswoman for IWCS, this language was included in template letters the Virginia Department of Health provided to all school divisions in July.

At the time Thornton sent the Sept. 17 letter, this language was consistent with guidance the CDC had issued in August, which had claimed asymptomatic individuals need not be tested, even if they’ve been recently exposed to someone with COVID-19.

The CDC reversed course on this position Sept. 18, issuing new guidance on its website that states, “Due to the significance of asymptomatic and pre-symptomatic transmission, this guidance further reinforces the need to test asymptomatic persons, including close contacts of a person with documented SARS-CoV-2 infection.” SARS-CoV-2 is the official name of the virus that causes COVID-19.

“If your child has been exposed to or diagnosed with COVID-19, please report this to your school,” Thornton said. “This information will be kept confidential.”

As of Monday, Isle of Wight County Schools has resumed in-person instruction for students in preschool through eighth grade on an alternating two-day-a-week schedule. On Oct. 26, grades 9-12 will return. Hardy Elementary normally has a student population of just over 500 in grades PreK-4.

“We still have about 50% of our families who will stay virtual through the end of first semester,” Briggs said.