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Brodhead High School COVID-19 outbreak prompts switch to virtual learning

School COVID

BRODHEAD (WKOW) -- Brodhead High School switched to virtual learning Tuesday after an outbreak of COVID-19 among students.

The news came in a press release sent Monday evening from the Green county Health Department.

A total of seven students tested positive for the disease caused by the new coronavirus.

The outbreak is believed to have stemmed from a "student gathering" that happened the weekend before school started. The school district completed contact tracing from the event and sent 25 students home Friday that were considered to have been close contacts with the first student who tested positive.

"We had twenty-five out just for the one student," Broadhead School District Superintendent Leonard Lueck says. "Multiply that times six more students, we would have had of other students out," Lueck says.

"We have a great student body," Lueck says. "They're very respectful, they're very dedicated. It's hard for even grown-ups to avoid large, group gatherings, so to expect teenagers to do it as well is a lot to ask."

The district decided to switch the high school to virtual learning for the next 10 days. Officials say while students are home, the school building will be deep cleaned.

Lueck says before school started, staff prepared for any one of three instruction models: all students in school; fifty percent of the student body in school, with students alternating days between in-person and virtual; and all virtual. He says it's unlikely all students will return to classrooms in ten days. "I don't have a lot of confidence in coming back full face-to-face, not on (Sept.) 18th anyway."

"It's kind of overwhelming really, just finding out over this weekend," says school parent Joel Steinmann, whose daughter is a junior student. "But we kind of had an idea it was going to be this way."

Steinmann is confident his daughter Joie will be resilient. "She adapts and she'll do well."

Lueck says he's heard from parents concerned about at least a temporary end of face to face instruction for their children. Be he says other parents have praised this pivot. "We've had plenty of parents contact us to thank us for not wasting any time and moving to full virtual, thinking of the safety of the students," Lueck says.

Health officials for Green County said they do not release the names of students or staff who have tested positive.

The full press release is below.

Green County Public Health today is reporting that seven students of Brodhead High School have tested positive for COVID-19.

"Last week the Brodhead School District was made aware of a student gathering that occurred the weekend before school started. As of last Friday, one High School student had tested positive for COVID -19. The District completed contact tracing and sent home approximately 25 students that were considered to be close contacts at school. The District was also able to identify several students that had been in attendance at the student gathering and these students were sent home as well.

Since that time, several more students that were in attendance at the student gathering have tested positive and the Green County Public Health has identified this now as an outbreak. Through communications with Green County Public Health the School District has made the difficult decision to move the High School only to full virtual learning for two weeks, (Sept 8-18). The High School will be deep cleaned September 8 and 9 and no students should report to the building. The School Board will be discussing their next steps at the September 9th board meeting." said Leonard Lueck, Brodhead School District Superintendent.

"The Green County Public Health Department is working with Brodhead School District leadership and staff to conduct a thorough investigation to track, trace, and contain the virus," said RoAnn Warden, Health Officer. "We want to assure the community, students and staff of Brodhead High School, and their family members that extra steps are being taken to protect students and staff to minimize the spread of COVID-19. These extra safety precautions include moving the Brodhead High School to full virtual learning for the next two weeks."

Investigation of an outbreak of COVID-19 in any setting involves the same basic public health principles: detection of cases, isolation of ill persons, contact tracing, quarantine of cases and close contacts, laboratory testing, and infection control measures in the setting to prevent additional transmission. Public health and school district staff are communicating daily when an individual has tested positive and is connected with a school district. Additionally, surveillance for ill students or staff are being tracked by the schools and reported regularly to public health. School and public health staff are working together to identify close contacts, notifying close contacts of their potential exposure, and asking them to quarantine.

Green County Public Health does not release the names of students or staff that have tested positive for COVID-19 to ensure the privacy of individuals and their families. To date, 304 residents of Green County have tested positive for COVID-19.

If you have been in contact with someone who is a confirmed case of COVID-19, staff from Green County Public Health will be in touch to notify you of potential exposure. When they call you, they will ask if you are experiencing symptoms, if you are a healthcare worker, and will provide information about quarantine and isolation. If you have symptoms, they can also help you understand when and how to seek medical help, how to get tested, and options if you have concerns about being able to safely quarantine or isolate for the required time.

"COVID-19 can be spread by asymptomatic people, meaning people who are not experiencing symptoms such as fever, cough, and shortness of breath," continued RoAnn Warden. Everyone over the age of five must wear cloth face coverings whenever you are indoors or in an enclosed space, other than a private residence, and other people not from your household are present in the same room or enclosed space." In order to maintain in person instruction, Green County Public Health reminds parents, students, and community members to take the following precautions to slow the spread of COVID-19:

• Limit nonessential trips into the community;

• Stay home when sick and do not send students to school if ill;

• Watch for symptoms of COVID-19, which include fever and chills, cough, shortness of breath, loss of taste or smell, sore throat, fatigue and body/muscle aches, diarrhea, vomiting, and nausea;

• Seek testing from a provider if symptoms of COVID-19 occur;

• Keep physical distance of at least 6 feet from anyone not part of your household;

• Frequently wash your hands and cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue or sleeve.

The Green County Public Health Department, Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS), and Brodhead School District are working around the clock to try to help everyone remain safe. Warden says school districts can reach out to the Green County Public Health to get advice on how to keep themselves and others safe. We encourage the public to frequently monitor the Green County Public Health Facebook page and website, the DHS website for updates, and to follow @DHSWI on Facebook and Twitter, or dhs.wi on Instagram. Additional information can be found on the CDC website.