WILTON — On Friday, Oct. 9, just before the Indigenous Peoples’ Day holiday weekend, Regional School Unit 9  (RSU 9) reported its first student case of COVID-19 at Academy Hill School in Wilton. The district successfully isolated the potential spread of the coronavirus from this single case by conducting its own contact tracing.

“We did our part to notify, which meant families knew right away they shouldn’t be out in the community over the weekend or with other family members on a long holiday because they were considered close contacts, and they need to start quarantining,” RSU 9 Superintendent Tina Meserve said in a phone interview on Oct. 14. 

The Academy Hill student had exhibited COVID-19 symptoms and received a coronavirus test. When the doctor received a positive result, they immediately notified the district. Before RSU 9 could release a health notification, it had to wait for confirmation of the student’s COVID-19 status by Maine’s Center for Disease Control (CDC).

Meserve said that the district was able to accomplish a hefty portion of contact tracing while waiting several hours for confirmation from the CDC.

“It worked out well, our nurses were all together because it was a workshop day and they were all on site, so we set up our command center at the high school,” Meserve said. “They started reviewing who was in the class that day, who was on the bus that day, who was in the cafeteria that day, where were they sitting, and going through a process of identifying all of the close contacts from identifying staff to students.” 

RSU 9’s head nurse is in direct contact with a state-level nurse to guide the district through standard operating practices and contact tracing strategies. Since the district had already established protocols released by the Maine’s CDC and Department of Education, individuals at risk of close-contact were quickly identified.

Protocols such as limiting the number of students allowed in the cafeteria and keeping a strict, class-specified schedule for lunch time greatly reduced the number of close-contact individuals. Other CDC and DOE requirements also helped such as having students sit six feet apart in the cafeteria and face one direction while eating.

“If we had not had those protocols in place, the whole cafeteria could’ve been quarantined,” Meserve said.

Those identified as close-contact individuals are currently in a 14-day quarantine. No other COVID-19 cases have been identified at Academy Hill and the school is still open for hybrid instruction.

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