A Cape Elizabeth Middle School student reported Sunday as having tested positive for COVID-19 is a 12-year-old boy who is believed to have been infected as the result of increasing community transmission in Cumberland County, school officials said Monday.

He is the first child to have tested positive for the coronavirus in Maine.

School officials said the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention has notified anyone it deemed to have been in close contact with the infected student.

Cape Elizabeth Superintendent Donna Wolfrom said she had “no idea” how many people have been contacted by Maine CDC. “They didn’t give us that information. They told us that people have been contacted if they had, what they called, close-contact concerns. I don’t know who those people are.”

Maine CDC confirmed it “communicated with all persons determined to have had close contact,” on Sunday and Monday morning, “so they could immediately self-quarantine and take other appropriate steps.”

At a Monday morning news conference outside the middle school, school officials reported the student was recovering at home. Jill Young, the school’s nurse said, “This student most likely came into contact with this outside of our school. It’s all throughout our county.”

State health officials reported Monday that there are now 17 confirmed or likely coronavirus cases in Maine, 13 in Cumberland County.

Later in the day, Wolfrom said she could not release information regarding the boy’s grade in school, or if he had attended school in the past week.

“There are certain questions I just can’t answer because of confidentiality,” she said.

Wolfrom did say there is no evidence the child had traveled overseas or been in direct contact with someone who had traveled abroad. That means he contracted the coronavirus from what is referred to as community transmission.

The Cape Elizabeth Middle School Parents Association issued a statement Monday evening through its co-president, Heather Reeves.

“We feel supported by our Cape Elizabeth School District. As parents, we are amazed by how quickly our kid’s teachers have developed educational plans for at home schooling,” the statement said. “Our take on this is that it doesn’t matter who tested positive first, or what grade they are in, or what bus they are on. If one tested positive, more will, too. Our kids are in classes together, eat together, are on teams together, stand in lines together. Spread was inevitable.”

“If you have a vulnerable family member, watch out for symptoms and advocate for them if they present any. Remember that kids seem to come through this pretty well unscathed,” the parents association said.

Parent Jenn Booking, who has three children in the Cape school system including eighth-grade twin boys, isn’t surprised the coronavirus found its way to Cape Elizabeth.

“It’s an affluent community and a lot of families travel over February vacation,” she said. “When I read the email (about the positive test), my heart went in my stomach and I was a little emotional, but quickly all the facts kind of came back: kids are mildly affected, it’s possible it’s been in the school for two weeks.”

Booking said she’s most concerned about the health of the teachers and staff at the Cape Elizabeth schools.

“How are they taking care of each other right now? They’ve got to be exhausted. I know how busy I’ve been with three kids at home. I can’t imagine what they all went through with all the emailing and meetings,” Booking said.

Booking agrees that the child’s identity should be kept private.

“By this point, if (he) had received it from the community, it had already been in the school,” Booking said.

Like several other superintendents in southern Maine, Wolfrom had made the decision to close all Cape Elizabeth schools on Saturday. She said she was blindsided by Sunday’s news that a Cape student had tested positive for COVID-19.

“When the CDC called me (Sunday) afternoon I was totally shocked. It was information no superintendent wanted to hear,” Wolfrom said.

In a letter sent to students, families and staff on Sunday night, Wolfrom said that “quarantine orders will be issued on a case-by-case basis and those individuals who should quarantine will be notified by the CDC. We have been informed that there are no quarantine orders as a result of this latest positive result, now that we are in community transmission.”

Dr. Nirav Shah, director of the Maine CDC, was asked in his daily news briefing how Cape Elizabeth students and families should respond.

“Right now, the best thing that any child who may have been at that school during the period when this individual was infectious, they need to make sure they are watching for signs and symptoms,” Shah said. “That is really the best thing that they should be doing.

“Maine CDC, while working with the school, will be soon reaching out to anybody who may have been in that close zone of contact to recommend additional public health measures. But based on where we are right now, the best thing that any child there can be doing is making sure their families are watching them for symptoms.”

Shah said students and families also should heed Gov. Janet Mills’ advice to everyone to avoid large gatherings in general. Mills declared a civil state of emergency on Sunday.

 

 

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