By Lyra Bordelon
As COVID-19 restrictions lift in West Virginia, and those 16 under are unable to be vaccinated, one concern of many residents is potential spread within and around Greenbrier County schools. In order to prevent such a spread, officials pushed classes to remote learning for both Greenbrier East High School and Eastern Greenbrier Middle School students last Friday, March 26. However, concern remains for some parents after a GEHS basketball game was played on Saturday, March 27.
Head School Nurse Paula McCoy explained the cases that pushed the two schools to remote learning did not affect the basketball team.
“We had back to back incidents with different sports, [but] the person who tested positive and was quarantined late last week was … not a basketball player or around any basketball player,” explained McCoy. “We did a lot of contact tracing on Friday and had to quarantine a lot of students. … We all have to follow the same West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources guidance on when student athletes need to be quarantined, how long, then what needs to be in place for them to return to academics and to sports.”
The problems with positive cases during a game often come about when a positive case is found after the game.
“Ever since we’ve dealt with COVID, we have dealt with [positive athlete cases],” said Superintendent of Schools Jeff Bryant. “… We have had instances, back in the fall and maybe during this winter where our students have been involved in a contest with another team, say an away game, then received notification 24, 48 hours later that a student athlete was positive and quarantined numerous teams at numerous times so far this year.”
This notification system would also go both ways.
“If we have a COVID case and it involves athletics, and it maybe involves another school because of contact we had with an event, we would feel responsible to contact that school system and notified them,” Bryant said. “That’s what we’ve received to state responsibility from the other school systems. We have found that to be consistent.”
“Our athletic directors are so valuable in regard to that, and Sheryl Hulmes, our athletic director, has reached out to other teams when it’s happened to us, when we’ve had an athlete positive,” McCoy added. “She lets the other teams know.”
Once a positive case is established, contact tracing and quarantine begins.
“When we have someone that connects with one of our schools test positive, we have to go back 48 hours before that positive test or before the development of symptoms, whichever came first,” McCoy explained. “Whoever they were in close contact with during that 48 hour period. That’s how it happened. Honestly we find out about someone being positive after they’ve played a game because they maybe develop symptoms the next day. That’s the kind of situation where we’ve had to go back and notify other teams.”
She encouraged concerned parents, family, and friends to be vigilant and encourage others to be as well, even as the vaccination program continues forward.
“I would just like to relay our appreciation for the support the parents have provided,” McCoy said. “They’ve been concerned about the quarantine, they’ve adhered to it, they’re doing the daily screenings on their students. If we’re going to mitigate the risk of COVID in our school system, we’re at the mercy of the parents to be honest with us and be forthcoming with information.