MELROSE, MA — Multiple coronavirus cases stemming from a first-grade class at the Hoover School has been a reminder of "how vulnerable we are" and the need to stay "vigilant," Superintendent Julie Kukenberger said.
Three Hoover students and one teacher tested positive for the coronavirus, Principal Nina Cullen-Hamzeh told the school community in a letter Thursday. One case was isolated, but those of two other students and the teacher were connected.
While they aren't the first cases for the district this fall, it appears to be a rare case of in-school transmission in Melrose, which is something the state has said is among the only reasons to consider switching to remote learning.
But school officials feel confident the spread has been contained, thanks in part to precautions already in place.
The district's one-week on, one-week off hybrid learning schedule allows for students to remain home for nine consecutive days. In this case, three of the four positive tests came after the cohort finished in-person learning for the week of Nov. 2. Kukenberger called it "a sort of built-in quarantine."
Elementary students are in one class with their teacher for the whole school day. They even eat lunch at their desks, limiting any unnecessary travel and potential mingling.
All the students in the class were deemed close contacts of the teacher. The other eight students tested negative, Kukenberger said.
"This is an example of how those risk-mitigating factors helped contain it," she said.
Kukenberger also credited school families and staff for communicating with the district, even alerting officials of possible exposure before test results come in.
"That just helps us mitigate the risk and start our response planning in a much more timely way," she said.
Kukenberger and Cullen-Hamzeh will hold a call for Hoover families at 7 p.m. Sunday to answer any questions.
The district is trying to get the state to send a Mobile Rapid Response Unit to test at the school. Residents can find the nearest testing locations here.
Kukenberger said Friday there were seven coronavirus cases across the district this week, including remote students. Two of the positive cases were among staff members.
"It reminds us all of how vulnerable we are and how vigilant we need to be with all of the protocols," she said. "It's not one thing that works, it's this multi-pronged approach that works."
The superintendent continues to stress wearing masks, physically distancing, washing hands and staying home — whether you feel sick or even just a little "weird."
"We're so used to just powering through," she said. "Really slowing down to listen to your body is important."
The city — as is most of the state and country — is enduring a significant increase in coronavirus activity. Thursday's weekly update showed 10 percent of Melrose's 440 coronavirus cases have come in the past week.