Vermont officials say coronavirus cases in schools can be traced to community spread

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The Health Department is currently investigating cases in five schools: South Burlington High School, Williston Central, Windsor School, Manchester Elementary, and Essex Elementary.

But state health officials say the cases aren’t spreading in school but rather in the community.

“I want to emphasize that even this far into the school year, there have been no known instances of transmission of the virus in schools,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine. “School-associated cases are among people associated with the virus in the community, outside of school.”

He said contact tracing shows that no cases are linked back to the schools.

“A number of our index cases weren’t in school when they were infectious, so that’s easy,” he said. “Others may have been in school for a day or two when they were infectious but we know through the contact tracing process who we need to be concerned about and who not,” said Levine.

So far, no health recommendations have been made to move to remote learning. Starting next week, Mill River students Pre-k through fourth grade will return to the classroom — 5 days a week.

Mill River Union Unified School District Superintendent Dave Younce says this is a crucial step for young children.

“We’re trusting the Department of Health that once we get our students back in school, we’re going to find cases that bubble up and we’ll work with them to manage that process and communicate with folks and hopefully keep students as long as we can,” said Younce.

The Nation’s Coronavirus Response Coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx visited Vermont Saturday as part of her national tour to find the best practices in higher education. She said the University of Vermont has done an exemplary job keeping students and faculty safe.

“The way that you ensure that they can stay in school is to do what every student has done here. That has gone out of their way to prevent any spread of the virus on their campus. Yes, they’ve had a few positives but they’ve not had a cluster. They’ve not had a giant outbreak. If they can do it here, it tells us we can do it in our community, ” said Dr. Birx.

Mill River has been completely remote since September and the district will transition back to online learning, if necessary. But Younce looks forward to seeing Mill River students.

“I do believe the best instruction, the best learning, the best connection does happen in person,” said Younce.

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