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Prince William students in quarantine, isolation due to COVID-19 doubles over last 2 weeks

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The number of Prince William County students quarantining and isolating at home as a result of either contracting COVID-19 or having a close contact with a positive case has more than doubled over the past two weeks, rising to 1,428 students in quarantine and an additional 225 in isolation for having contracted COVID-19, according to new data posted on the school division website.

The school division’s revised COVID-19 dashboard, released Thursday, shows the number of students quarantining and in isolation at each school for the first time. 

The data show that cases and quarantines are up about 137% since Friday, Sept. 20, the last time the school division released quarantine numbers. 

At that time, there were 695 students and 12 staff members quarantining at home as a result of a close contact or positive case of COVID-19. 

As of Friday, Oct. 1, the number had risen to 1,428 students and 12 staff members in quarantine and 225 students and 49 staff members having to isolate due to having contracted COVID-19.

The data mean that at least 49 staff members and 225 students are currently being treated for  COVID-19, the website says.

Those listed in quarantine have been “exposed to another individual being treated as having COVID-19,” the website says. Those exposures “may have occurred in [a Prince William County school] or in the community,” the website says.

It’s not clear if any students or staff members have been hospitalized due to severe cases of COVID-19, as that information is not included on the website.

Further, the school division acknowledged on Wednesday the recent deaths of three staff members since the new school year began, according to Diana Gulotta, spokeswoman for Prince William County schools.

Gulotta noted the school division cannot confirm whether their deaths were related to COVID-19.

“Unfortunately, a few staff members have died since school began,” Gulotta said in a Sept. 30 email. “We have not been provided with any information at this time confirming any of those deaths were related to COVID-19.”

The school division made the changes to its COVID-19 dashboard in part to make the information easier to understand, Gulotta said.

The changes were “based on public feedback and to streamline the information,” Gulotta said.

Community spread

It’s not clear what’s driving the increase in cases and close contacts in the school division, which has an enrollment of about 90,000 students and employs more than 11,000 staff members. Emails to the school division and the Prince William Health District asking for comment about the recent spike in cases were not immediately answered Friday morning.

The rise in cases coincides with a surge of new cases locally over the past few weeks, although it’s not known whether or how much the start of the new school year impacted the level of community spread in Prince William County.

The county has been listed in the “red” zone – the highest level of community spread for COVID-19 as defined by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention -- since at least early August.

Since the new school year began on Aug. 23, the average number of daily cases reported in the county rose from 86 to the current 113.7, an increase of about 32%, according to the Virginia Department of Health.

The average number of daily cases reported in the health district peaked on Sept. 16 with 132 cases a day, an increase of nearly 54% since the school year began.

Schools with the highest numbers of students in isolation, quarantine

According to the new dashboard and a Prince William Times analysis of COVID-19 cases reported in schools since the new school year began, elementary and middle schools have the highest number of students isolating and in quarantine due to COVID-19 cases and exposures, while high schools have the highest number of overall cases among students and staff. 

The numbers reflect high schools’ larger enrollment; most Prince William County high schools have more than 2,000 students. The numbers also reflect the fact that students under the age of 12 are not yet eligible to be vaccinated.

In the version of the dashboard initially released Thursday, the school division revealed the exact number of students quarantining and in isolation at each Prince William County school. In an update made later in the day, however, the school division suppressed the exact numbers in each category if they were fewer than 10, designating them only with an asterisk.

The school division is not providing a breakdown of staff quarantining and isolating at each school due to staff privacy concerns, Gulotta said.

Schools with the highest numbers of students in isolation

As of Friday, Oct. 1, Unity Braxton Middle School, in Manassas, had the highest number of students isolating due to COVID-19 with 19. The school also had 48 students in quarantine, according to the dashboard.

Unity Braxton Middle was followed by The Nokesville School, a K-8 school in Nokesville, which had 12 students isolating as a result of testing positive for COVID-19, while Bennett Elementary, in Manassas, came in third place with 10 students in isolation.

Schools with the highest numbers of students in quarantine

Meanwhile, Marumsco Hills Elementary in Woodbridge had the highest number of students quarantining with 116 students -- about 20% of the school's enrollment -- at home due to a close contact. The school had no students isolating due to contracting COVID-19, however, according to the dashboard.

Marumsco Hills Elementary was followed by Buckland Mills Elementary, in Gainesville, which had 88 students in quarantine as of Friday. Buckland Mills had no students in isolation, however.

Sudley Elementary, in Manassas, had 80 students in quarantine and 12 in isolation, according to the dashboard.

Across the school division, 39 schools had no students in isolation as of Friday, Oct. 1, while nine schools had no students in quarantine. Prince William County has about 100 schools throughout the division.

Total cases, close contacts

The total number of cases reported among students and staff at each Prince William County school is not reflected in the current dashboard, as it only reveals the numbers of students isolating and quarantining at each school.

Since the new school year began, the school division has reported 1,166 individual positive or probable cases of COVID-19. Of those, 948 were reported in September – a number that surpassed the 899 cases reported during the height of the pandemic in January 2021.

Battlefield High School, located in Haymarket, has reported the highest number of cases with 42. Of those, 19 involved close contacts at school.  

Woodbridge High School, in Lake Ridge, is not far behind with 36 cases, 25 of which involved close contacts. 

Patriot High School, in Nokesville, has so far reported 32 cases, 24 of which had close contacts.

This is a developing news story. Stay with the Prince William Times for updates.

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