By Linda Conner Lambeck
WESTPORT — With COVID-19 cases multiplying, the school district is reinstating shields at lunch, requiring students to wear masks during outdoor recess and will activate classroom cameras so high school students quarantining at home can follow along.
The changes outlined to the Board of Education on Tuesday by Health Services Supervisor Suzanne Levasseur are said to be temporary as the highly infectious Omicron variant surges through the population.
According to the school district’s COVID dashboard, so far this week 148 cases have been positively identified (inclusive of students and staff), while last week there were 205 cases.
On Tuesday, the state’s overall COVID positivity rose to 23.85 percent, according to data released by Gov. Ned Lamont.
Omicron is more contagious than earlier COVID variants, but symptoms, particularly for vaccinated individuals, tend to be milder.
Schools pivot to address widespread Omicron cases
Levasseur said that community spread of the virus is so high that the district has resumed giving daily reports on virus positivity rates.
Supt. of Schools Thomas Scarice said given the number of students at the secondary level who are not in class because they have the virus or are in quarantine, classroom cameras have been turned on so students at home can observe lessons in real time
He called it an interim measure.
Scarice said the new rule requiring students to wear masks during recess will be one of the first rules loosened once the pandemic subsides.
Positivity results from school testing clinic called significant
Screening for the virus continues.
On Monday, when classes were canceled to allow staff to better prepare for a return from the holiday break, nearly 600 families were tested at a school-sponsored clinic.
Results from that clinic generated a 13 percent positivity rate, the school board was told.
Levasseur called it a pretty significant number since most people who took the tests were symptom free.
Following guidance from the federal Centers for Disease Control, contact-tracing has been halted.
“When there is high community transition, it really is not effective,” Levasseur said.
The new COVID guidelines also cut isolation time from 10 to five days if an individual is symptom-free.
Shipment of COVID at-home tests received, more expected
So far, Westport’s school district of 5,400 students has received 2,500 test kits for students and 900 for staff from the state with specific guidelines for distribution. There are two tests in each kit.
This batch is for individuals who are symptomatic or who have had direct exposure to someone with the virus, said Scarice.
The tests cannot be administered in school by staff, but instead go home with students. A truck traveled to all eight schools in the district Monday to distribute the kits.