WENATCHEE — Three weeks into the new school year, COVID-19 transmission inside schools is very low, according to school district COVID-19 data.

The Wenatchee School District, the largest in Chelan and Douglas counties, reported that 153 students, or about 2.1% of the district’s students, have tested positive for COVID-19 since classes started through Wednesday.

Forty-two staff members, or about 3.9% of the district’s staff, have tested positive as of Sept. 15, according to the district’s COVID-19 dashboard.

The school district does not track where transmissions occur, but officials suspect one COVID-19 case may have been transmitted in school, according to Diana Haglund, district spokesperson.

When a positive case is identified among staff or students, the school district contact traces to determine if the classroom needs to be quarantined, Haglund said in an email.

Some classes this year have been quarantined, Haglund said in an email. Students and staff quarantine at home for a variable amount of time depending on vaccination status and symptoms.

Even as COVID-19 spreads through the state, students will most likely contract the disease outside of the classroom with little transmission occurring in schools, according to Luke Davies, Chelan-Douglas Health District administrator.

“School districts are doing their best to manage the surveillance,” Davies said. “Our school nurses are working really closely with the health district as well as the department of health on making sure that we’re keeping as many kids safe as possible.”

If somebody tests positive for COVID-19, the student or staff member stays home for 10 days from when symptoms first appeared or 10 days after positive test. Find more information at wwrld.us/protocol.

All staff members, students and visitors are required to be masked while on school grounds, according to a state mandate issued in August. Staff members are also required to be fully vaccinated by Oct. 18.

These mandates have been effective in reducing the amount of COVID-19 transmission, Davies said. He pointed to an increase in COVID-19 cases reported at the Kittitas School District as an example of what can happen if safeguards are not enforced.

The Kittitas School District had decided to not enforce the mask mandate and was experiencing “uncontrolled disease spread,” according to Dr. Mark Larson, health officer for the Kittitas County Public Health Department, in a Monday email sent to the school board. Larson also said the school district had made it impossible to do case and contact investigations, according to a report by KIMA-TV.

“So you compare that school’s cases with the cases in schools who are (following the mandates), and the cases are lower,” Davies said. “Tackling the exposures and getting people quarantined faster is functioning. There’s a difference between schools that aren’t doing that and schools that are.”

The Eastmont School District reported that, as of Sept. 11, COVID-19 cases have only been occurring outside of campus, according to the Eastmont School District’s weekly update.

In three weeks, 104 Eastmont students, about 1.3% of all students, and 18 staff members, 2.2% of all staff, have tested positive for COVID-19 as of Sept. 11.

From Sept. 7 to Sept. 11, another 179 students were quarantining for 10 days due to COVID-19 symptoms or awaiting COVID-19 test results, according to the Eastmont COVID-19 dashboard.

Several other school districts also share COVID-19 data at their schools:

  • Lake Chelan School District has confirmed seven COVID-19 cases among students, or about .55% of the student body, from Sept. 7-14. No cases originated on campus or among staff members. Eleven more students are quarantining due to a close contact.
  • Cashmere School District reported 15 students, about 1% of the student population, and eight staff members tested positive for COVID-19 from Sept. 1-14. No confirmed transmission at school or school events has occurred, according to Scott Brown, Cashmere High School vice principal.

Contact tracing is an investigative process to identify what people if any may have been exposed to COVID-19 after a positive case has been identified.

Someone is considered to have been exposed to COVID-19 if they spent 15 minutes or more within 6 feet of a person who tested positive for COVID-19, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

A COVID exposure or close contact is defined as being within 6 feet of a person with COVID-19 for at least 15 cumulative minutes over a 24-hour period, according to the state Department of Health. Find the health department’s requirements for schools during the 2021-22 school year at wwrld.us/doh.

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Oscar Rodriguez: (509) 665-1179

rodriguez@wenatcheeworld.com