Shrewsbury notes COVID-19 cases in schools

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By Laura Hayes, Senior Community Reporter

Shrewsbury students filed into the new Beal School on the first day of classes earlier this month. (Photo/Laura Hayes)

SHREWSBURY – There have been 17 cases of COVID-19 among Shrewsbury Public Schools staff and students since the start of the school year, Superintendent Joseph Sawyer wrote in a Superintendent’s Update on Sept. 10.

That marked an increase from Sept. 8 when Sawyer presented the cases to the Shrewsbury School Committee. At that point, there were eight cases among Shrewsbury students.

“We’re trending very proportionally with the number of cases in town,” Sawyer said during that meeting. 

The most recent data provided by the town as of Sept. 10 indicated that there had been 57 cases since Sept. 3. 

Contextualizing the data, Sawyer noted that there are approximately 6,070 students in the Shrewsbury Public Schools.

“Out of 6,070 students, that ranges from about five to ten thousandths of one percent to 13 thousandths of one percent in terms of the positivity when you talk about seven or eight students out of a total of over 6,000,” Sawyer said. “So, I think that it’s important to keep that in context.”

Sawyer said that, according to state data, there aren’t as many COVID-19 cases in younger age groups statewide compared to older age brackets, such as those in the 20-29 age range. 

He said Shrewsbury’s 14-day positive test rate is 2.34 percent for the weeks of Aug. 14 to 28. 

The district’s primary goal is to provide full-time and in-person learning for students with minimal disruptions. The district is using mitigation strategies to minimize the risk of catching the virus, Sawyer said.

All students and staff are wearing masks while they’re in school and on the bus, said Director of Nursing Noelle Freeman, noting that the state mandate for masks runs through at least Oct. 1.

“We will be re-evaluating those things as we get guidance from state and federal authorities and watching all the statistics on what’s going on in Shrewsbury,” Freeman said.

Freeman reviewed the COVID-19 symptom list and various mitigation measures the district is taking.

This year, there are exemptions to people who have to quarantine, such as for fully vaccinated individuals, people who are masked and three or more feet away, people on the bus and individuals who have had COVID-19 within the last 90 days. 

“[That] is a good thing because we’re having to quarantine less people, but it does make it a little more complicated,” Freeman said.

Those exemptions have affected contact tracing in the schools.

Freeman said, in one case study, a person at Oak Middle School tested positive. Lunch and six classrooms were contact traced, and 21 contacts were identified. 

Three had to quarantine because they were less than the three feet distance or within six feet without masks. One of those people, who was unvaccinated, had contact at lunch.

Ten were exempt because they were masked and over three feet away, while another eight were exempt from quarantine because they were vaccinated.