WOOLWICH — The Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention identified a COVID-19 outbreak at Woolwich Central School Tuesday, but the school will remain open for full in-person learning.

“A school is given outbreak status if three or more positive COVID-19 cases are identified within fourteen days of each other,” Regional School Unit 1 Superintendent Patrick Manuel wrote in a letter to families Tuesday. “The cases have to be from different households and individuals who test positive must have been in school within fourteen days of testing positive.”

Manuel said school staff met with a Maine CDC case management investigator to review the school’s COVID-19 cases and the steps the school took to isolate those who tested positive.

According to Maine CDC spokesperson Robert Long, the department’s case and outbreak investigators “share what they learn from investigations with school administrators to help them make decisions about whether to continue in-classroom instruction.”

Manuel said the Maine CDC and school staff determined that members of the school community who tested positive for COVID-19 as a result of transmission that occurred outside the school.

“There is no evidence to suggest that there is any transmission taking place at Woolwich Central School,” Manuel wrote. “Furthermore, the team from the CDC did not recommend any changes to protocols and safety procedures that are in place at the school. As a result, our normal in-person schedule will not be disrupted by this ‘outbreak’ designation.”

That conclusion is in line with recommendations from Dr. Amina Hanna, a pediatrician at Mid Coast Hospital who has been guiding RSU 1 through the reopening process. Hanna has advocated for full in-person learning because she said children who test positive for COVID-19 were usually exposed to the disease through a sick adult close to them, not through another child in school.

Woolwich Central School has 280 pre-kindergarten through fifth grade students, according to Manuel. There are typically 11 to 14 students in each classroom.

The RSU 1 school board gave Woolwich Central School the green light to open for full in-person learning in early December.

Woolwich Central School temporarily moved to full online learning earlier this month after an individual within the school tested positive for COVID-19, Manuel wrote in a Jan. 14 letter.

Although it wasn’t considered an outbreak, Manuel said the school had “significant coverage needs due to staff and student close contact quarantining” and the school wasn’t able to find enough substitute teachers.

Woolwich Central School returned to full in-person instruction on Tuesday.

Another Woolwich student tested positive on Dec. 21. That student was near other students and teachers while they were contagious, according to Manuel.

Since March, Sagadahoc County has seen 653 people test positive for COVID-19 and one death as of Wednesday, according to the Maine CDC. The county has had a 4.7% positivity rate over the last two weeks, with 135 people testing positive out of 2,866 tests administered.

State health officials announced another 701 Mainers tested positive for COVID-19 Wednesday and another 11 died, the Portland Press Herald reported. Statewide, 34,936 Mainers have tested positive for COVID-19 since March and 530 have died.


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