The local schools have already seen the chaos of Covid-19 unleashed as they move into their second week of the 2021-2022 school year.
“We’ve had in general about a case a day,” said Mammoth Unified School District (MUSD) superintendent Jennifer Wildman. “Most have been staff members who are vaccinated.”
The first cases occurred before school officially started on Monday and Tuesday, August 16 and 17, when three vaccinated Mammoth High School staff members were diagnosed with Covid.
No subsequent quarantines were necessary, aside from the staff members themselves.
The second case occurred at Mammoth High School on the first day of school, when a vaccinated staff member at Husky Club tested positive.
There was unmasked exposure to 58 students and 9 staff members connected to the infected individual during lunchtime hours in the cafeteria.
All of the exposed individuals involved had to quarantine until at least Wednesday, August 25 if a Covid test was taken and passed, or Monday, August 30 if no test was taken.
Individuals who are not in what is considered “close contact” with infected individuals are now given the option of a modified quarantine, meaning they are permitted to go to school, but nowhere else.
What exactly does “close contact” look like? “It depends on length of exposure, proximity of exposure, and if masks were worn. It really varies case by case,” said Wildman.
On Wednesday, August 25, a Mammoth Elementary School student was diagnosed with Covid, sending 3 other students home for quarantine, while 21 other students were put into modified quarantine.
The most recent outbreak was at Mammoth High School on August 25, when a student in the woodshop class tested positive.
Any student or faculty member who was closely adjacent to the classroom, as well as anybody who was in close contact with that student, will be asked to quarantine until Tuesday, September 7 with proof of a negative Covid test or Saturday, September 14 if they do not undergo testing.
29 students will be undergoing quarantine due to this outbreak.
“Unlike elementary school, high schoolers switch classes, and they do so 6 times a day. This is on top of any after school extracurriculars they’re involved in. So there’s a lot more mixing going on,” said Wildman.
She believes this explains the disproportionate amount of high school students needing to quarantine compared to younger students.
The protocol that follows when somebody tests positive with Covid goes as follows:
-The person’s activities when they could have spread COVID-19 are assessed
-The person diagnosed is kept home from school until they are no longer infectious
-People who were close contacts of the person with COVID-19 and who were unmasked at some point for 10 minutes or more are instructed to stay home from school for a quarantine period, as determined by Public Health.
Wildman explained that one of the most difficult parts of the whole ordeal so far is getting enough substitute teachers to cover for quarantined staff members.
As of August 20, MUSD had 26 teachers and staff members who were directly affected by Covid, including those Covid-positive and exposed, as well as those caring for family members who have been placed in quarantine.
“It sometimes feels like a really bad movie that we’re in, but we just want to keep the schools open,” said Wildman. “Our staff has been putting hours and hours of their own time into trying to accommodate all the changes. We’re doing whatever we can.”
Jack Lunch’s daughter will be home for 10 days due to being on the same school bus as a person who tested positive. After being in school for a week, she’ll now miss seven school days. She occasionally attends Round Valley Elementary.
MUSD currently has 50 students under quarantine.