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First responders get vaccine at AHS as part of 4-town effort

Public schools report 8 positive staff cases

UPDATED, Jan. 13: Arlington High School, as part of a regional effort, is the lead site for four towns where health personnel plan to administer Moderna vaccine to about 600 first responders starting Tuesday, Jan. 12, and ending Friday.

Moderna vaccine image

This is the first large-scale inoculation effort here, aimed at addressing the Covid-19 pandemic whose cases have risen since mid-October. As of Jan. 7, the town had a 3.56-percent positivity rate, as compared 7.7 percent statewide

Patch:  State offers weekly testing to schools | WBUR: Pooled tests praised

Meanwhile, Gibbs School Principal Fabienne Pierre-Maxwell reported to families Jan. 5 that a staff member from learning community 3 tested positive for Covid-19, but the superintendent had more to add.

YourArlington asked about ongoing testing on Jan. 6. Superintendent Kathleen Bodie responded Jan. 7 and emailed families Jan. 8 the public schools have been "providing weekly in-district Covid-19 testing for staff members who are working in-person in our schools."

She reported the results from Jan. 4 testing: Of 315 people who participated, eight staff members tested positive -- one at Arlington High, three at Ottoson, one at Gibbs, one at Hardy, one at the Thompson After School Program and one among IT staff.

2,925 tests through December

In addition, she reported, this week one staff member and one student at Ottoson received positive test results from another testing program. Some students and staff were close contacts. Other students will need to learn remotely over the next 10 days because of staffing issues.

"Close contacts, which included students and staff, were contacted and will remain at home for the duration of their quarantine period," she wrote.

To give some context to the results, from September through December, we processed 2,925 tests in our program, with 10 positive results. During this period, there were additional positive staff and student cases, which were also reported in Covid-19 updates.

Bodie vowed to continue to provide the media and public updates on the number of positive Covid-19 test results in the district.

Gibbs email

The Jan. 5 email from Gibbs principal came from a parent. It said, in part:Covid-19 image

"In every case, we work closely with the Arlington Department of Health through their contact tracing efforts in our schools and communicate quickly with our staff and families, if they are identified as a close contact. This process began immediately and all of the close contacts in our school community have had conversations with either me, our nurse Cara Dalton or our District Covid Response Coordinator Cindy Sheridan-Curran.

"A close contact is defined as anyone who was within [six feet] of a Covid-positive case for at least 15 minutes over a 24-hour period starting from two days before illness onset, or for asymptomatic cases two days prior to test specimen collection, until the time the patient is isolated.

"Anyone identified as a close contact is given instructions on quarantine, including dates and information on free testing at Stop the Spread sites. As many of our staff members in LC3 have been impacted by this particular case, the LC3 learning community will pivot to remote learning through Thursday, January 14, 2021.

"If your child is in LC1, LC2 or LC4 this does not impact his/her regular in-person schedule. To our community members we appreciate your diligence in following safety protocols that will continue to minimize school and/or LC quarantines.

"While we are aware that this will happen, it is still unsettling. We continue to engage in consistent expectations of mask wearing, hand washing and social distancing. Please know that the building is cleaned thoroughly every day, electrostatically disinfected weekly and is being cleaned this evening again out of an abundance of caution."

The email outlined plans for Jan. 6 through 8 and promised a schedule for next week.

"There shall be no disruption in the scheduling of students who receive additional services," it said.

"The team of teachers will return to school physically on Friday, January 15, but ONLY with BB Cohort and 4-Day students of LC3. LC3 parents/guardians, our teachers will have an opportunity to connect with the students during their remote learning tomorrow for all needed information for the rest of the week and next week; AND, all access needed for class will be communicated via Google Classroom, as they have been for remote learning on Wednesdays. Everyone take great care and be safe!"

Closed to media

In a media advisory Jan. 7, Joan Roman, the town's public-information representative, wrote that vaccinations for first responders, the third priority group within Phase 1 of the Commonwealth’s vaccine-distribution timeline, will begin in Arlington on Jan. 12.

Christine Bongiorno, director of Health and Human Services, responded Jan. 9 to add that the state Department of Public Health is rolling vaccine out to local public health departments for first responders starting Monday.

Arlington is the lead custodian of the vaccine in accord with the Massachusetts Covid-19 Vaccine Program.  The town will be joining with Lexington, Belmont and Watertown hosting five clinics Tuesday to Friday. Three clinics are in Arlington and two in Watertown for first responders from these communities.

The AHS location is a closed site, open only to preregistered first responders. In addition, she wrote, school nurses from these communities will be vaccinated.

"We are excited to finally start administering the vaccine to this priority group (first responders)," the advisory says. "It is the first step for local public health departments to be able to administer the vaccine. Arlington’s Health Department has years of experience in running flu clinics and ran successful H1N1 clinics."

Dec. 24, 2020: AHS antitobacco group awarded grant to probe effects on people of color

This news summary published Friday, Jan. 8, 2021, and updated Jan. 9, to add Bongiorno comment, and Jan. 12, to update copy, and Jan. 13, to add photo..

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