Seven more COVID-19 positives in Rowan-Salisbury Schools, still no clusters

Published 7:00 pm Wednesday, September 2, 2020

By Carl Blankenship

SALISBURY — The number of COVID-19 cases in Rowan-Salisbury Schools has remained low and dispersed, with no clusters appearing yet according to state data.

But seven new cases have been recorded by the district in the previous week, bringing the total identified in schools to 17.

The new reports include one staff member at Salisbury High School reported Aug. 26, one staff member at Millbridge Elementary School reported Aug. 27, two other Millbridge staff reported on Monday, one staff member reported positive at North Rowan Elementary School on Monday, one staff member at reported positive North Rowan High School on Monday and one staff member reported positive at Hanford Dole Elementary School on Tuesday.

A letter addressed to Millbridge families from Principal Jordan Baker said the cases reported at the elementary school on Monday were not related.

There are now a cumulative four cases at Hanford-Dole and three at Millbridge and two at North Rowan High School. These are the only schools with more than one reported case as of Wednesday.

The district notified five schools about one staff member who tested positive and works in multiple schools last week, which accounts for one of the reported cases at NRHS.

A cluster, as defined by the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services, is at least five cases which can be connected. For example, a cluster could be five confirmed cases found within a sports team or in students and faculty in one wing of a school.

There were a handful of infections identified in staff members before classes began, which did not affect the campuses, and families were notified of those cases.

In the case of Hanford Dole Elementary School, three staff tested positive, and two of those staff tested positive while quarantining due to contact with another staff member who tested positive

A week ago, the district reported a total of 10 cases as compared to 16 this week. Six of those cases were identified before students returned to campuses.

Every time the district receives a report of a new case, it sends a letter to families and consults with the Rowan County Health Department. The district serves about 18,000 students and a few thousand staff members.

The state’s list of COVID-19 clusters in education and childcare settings has been growing since most schools reopened in mid-August. By Wednesday there were 24 clusters reported in the state. The vast majority of the North Carolina’s 100 counties do not have a reported cluster, and only four of those clusters were reported in schools.

The four schools with clusters are Mt. Calvary High School in Greene County, Franklin High School in Macon County, North Hills Christian School in Rowan County and Plainview Elementary school in Sampson County.

The Post reported the five cases at North Hills, which are unchanged as of Wednesday, were all identified in staff before students returned to school and those affected were quarantined. Most of the cases reported in school clusters were recorded in staff. The only death was recorded at the childcare center Grace Filled Beginnings in Washington, located in the eastern part of the state.

Catawba College began classes on Aug. 18 and is reporting the same two total cases in off-campus students since last week — when it began publishing its COVID-19 data publicly.

About Carl Blankenship

Carl Blankenship has covered education for the Post since December 2019. Before coming to Salisbury he was a staff writer for The Avery Journal-Times in Newland and graduated from Appalachian State University in 2017, where he was editor of The Appalachian.

email author More by Carl