The Virginia Department of Health has identified at least one additional outbreak of COVID-19 at a Prince William County school and two more at local private schools, for a total of six outbreaks in local K-12 schools since the pandemic began.
The VDH defines an “outbreak” as two or more laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 cases that occur within a 14-day period among people who do not share a household and have not been identified as close contacts in another setting.
The number of outbreaks, as defined by VDH, are far lower than the total number of cases reported by Prince William County schools on its own dashboard.
The school division reports all cases among students and staff – including those experienced by students and teachers working virtually. The total number of cases reported in the school division as of Feb. 8 is 1,571.
The latest VDH-declared “outbreak” in a Prince William County public school occurred at Montclair Elementary School, located in Montclair.
The outbreak involved seven cases, the first of which was reported to the school division on Jan. 7. The outbreak first appeared on the VDH website on Friday, Feb. 8.
The school division did not disclose how the seven cases split among students and staff because of privacy concerns. It was not immediately known Tuesday how many students or staff had to quarantine at home as a result of the outbreak. All who did have since returned to school, according to Diana Gulotta, the school division spokeswoman.
The school division has been informed by the VDH that an outbreak has been identified at Benita Fitzgerald Elementary School in Woodbridge, Gulotta said.
But that outbreak had not yet appeared on the VDH website as of Friday, Feb. 5. The VDH updates its “outbreaks by setting” dashboard once a week on Fridays.
Charles J. Colgan High School was the first Prince William County school at which an official outbreak was identified. That outbreak involved between two and four cases and stemmed from a case first reported to the school division on Dec. 10. It was first reported on the VDH website on Jan. 22.
The school division investigates each outbreak, but Gulotta did not say if officials were able to determine how the outbreaks occurred.
The school division has said its mitigation strategies – which include requiring students and staff to wear face masks and mandating social distancing in classes and on school buses – are helping to keep COVID-19 cases at bay among the 13,500 students now learning in person, mostly on a two-day-a-week hybrid schedule.
Still, hundreds of students and staff members have had to quarantine because of exposures to COVID-19 in school buildings, which have resulted in dozens testing positive for the novel coronavirus.
From Jan. 15 to Feb. 1, 261 students and 90 staff members had to quarantine because of a close contacts with a positive COVID-19 case in a school building. At least one student and six staff members have fallen ill with COVID-19 because of an in-school exposure during that time, according to school division data presented at the Feb. 3 school board meeting.
During the same period, 328 students and 134 staff members tested positive for COVID-19. Among students who tested positive, 225 were attending school virtually, 91 were attending school in-person and 12 were participating in school athletics.
Among staff who tested positive from Jan. 15 to Feb. 1, 37 were teaching virtually and 97 were working in schools.
Private school outbreaks
Local private schools with newly reported outbreaks include Christ Chapel Academy, a Christian school in Woodbridge, and Linton Hall School, a Catholic pre-K though 8th grade school in Bristow.
The outbreak at Linton Hall School involved five cases. It was first reported on the VDH website on Friday, Feb. 8, and stemmed from a case first reported to the school on Jan. 11, according to Linton Hall Head of School Elizabeth Poole.
The grade in which the positive case was identified reverted to virtual instruction until Monday, Feb. 1. It was the first outbreak identified at the school, which has been operating 100% in-person since August, Poole said in an email.
“I am extremely proud that Linton Hall School has been able to stay open since August, especially as we are 100% in-person,” Poole wrote.
Linton Hall School has been operating with COVID-19 protocols, including mask-wearing and social distancing, but its regular class sizes of 24 students have not been reduced because their building is large enough to allow for social distancing even with full classes, Poole said.
Christ Chapel Academy, a pre-K through 12th grade Christian school in Woodbridge, was the site of an outbreak involving 10 cases. It was first reported on the VDH website on Friday, Feb. 5, and dated back to Jan. 27.
A Christ Chapel school official could not immediately answer questions about the outbreak on Tuesday.
Previous outbreaks have been reported at All Saints Catholic School in Manassas and Evangel Christian School in Dale City.
Reach Jill Palermo at firstname.lastname@example.org