WAPAKONETA — Twenty-two Wapakoneta High School students have been quarantined after a student at the high school tested positive for COVID-19.
Wapakoneta City Schools Superintendent Aaron Rex said the student, who was not symptomatic, had been tested for COVID-19 as part of a routine, random testing protocol by their employer.
The students were sent home to quarantine on Aug. 26, the second day of classes.
“Going into it, everybody knew you’re going to have positive cases,” Rex said. “You’re going to have to quarantine kids. It’s just a matter of — what’s that number going to be? How many kids are going to get sick? We try to prevent it as much as we can. It’s just like when kids have the flu at school. They do spread it to each other.”
The school district is requiring assigned seating in classrooms and the cafeteria to more easily identify which students have been within 6 feet of the person for at least 15 minutes, who are then sent home to quarantine for up to 14 days if they were in close contact with the individual two days before they developed symptoms or were tested for COVID-19.
The process is then repeated for any students in quarantine who develop COVID-19, whose close contacts are identified and quarantined as well.
Any teachers or staff who were within 6 feet of a confirmed COVID-19 case for at least 15 minutes also are required to quarantine, but no staff were quarantined in relation to this case.
The fall semester is resuming as Auglaize County now claims the eighth highest number of new COVID-19 cases per capita in Ohio, complicating plans for in-person instruction.
More than 90% of new cases reported in the two weeks prior to Aug. 25, the first day of the semester for Wapakoneta City Schools, were found outside congregate settings, which increases the probability that students or their parents have been exposed to COVID-19 in the community and may in turn prompt more quarantine orders as cases are reported to the school district.
Auglaize County Health Commissioner Oliver Fischer said new cases are being detected in all environments, from workplaces and long-term care facilities to social gatherings. The virus also is spreading within households, as family members bring the virus home where it is often difficult to isolate properly.
The risk of in-home transmission is even higher when a child gets sick, as young children are unable to care for themselves and may infect their parents, siblings or grandparents.
“There’s that risk that when you’re out in public, it can be picked up from anywhere,” Fischer said.
School districts will soon be required to report new COVID-19 cases to the public.
On Thursday, Gov. Mike DeWine announced he will order school districts to establish a process for parents or guardians to report when their child has tested positive for COVID-19, which also will be reported to the local health department.
School then must notify parents and the public of the new case but will be granted flexibility in how to do so while protecting the privacy of students, teachers and other staff who contract COVID-19.