Two Winfield High School student-athletes tested positive for the coronavirus last week, but this news was not made public at that time.
The CourierTraveler learned about the possibility of student-athletes testing positive through a high school parent curious about the protocols for COVID-19 safety in Cowley County schools, citing the fact that an entire elementary class in Arkansas City was temporarily closed due to exposure, but no alterations occurred due to the WHS student-athletes testing positive, this parent said.
USD 465 Superintendent Dr. Nathan Reed confirmed this week that two students tested positive. He said steps had been taken at the recommendation of the health department, including tracing the students’ contacts and quarantining the students’ families.
“We are in the realm of education partnering with the health department,” Reed said. He said the district takes the health department’s recommendations so they don’t “overreact or underreact.”
According to health department director Thomas Langer, the Winfield situation began with a parent testing positive for the virus. The parent’s child, a student at WHS, was tested and found to be positive. The health department then started tracing the contacts of parent and child and discovered they had been at a Labor Day event with at least one other student. That student also tested positive. Both students were removed from school until they are well.
Asked how the district made its decision about who to tell about the two cases, Reed said, “We told the families of high school students and staff.” Reed said the decision was based on the need to know. That means everyone with kids in school and the public in general do not necessarily have to be informed.
Langer said of course if someone had children in several schools, including the high school where a child was in contact with the ailing students, they would have to be informed.
“This is not about a cover-up,” he said. “We are being transparent with everyone who needs the information.”
Reed also reminded people that some information associated with students is protected and must remain so.
“I have to be aware of the HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) and FERPA (Family Educational Rights andPrivacy Act),” which protect much of the students’ information.
“I’m confident our reaction was well managed and we are moving forward,” Reed said. “We have preventative measures in place.”
Langer said the situation in Ark City was different because teachers who had attended a Labor Day event and work in the same school tested positive for the virus.
“The district acted quickly to get the situation under control,” Langer said. “They had to close the school because the teachers were ill.”
Both Reed and Langer said they expect students will come down with the virus all semester, but that doesn’t mean they will be reported to the public every time. It would be different if there were a large number of students who tested for the virus at the same time and in the same school. Otherwise, the health department and the school district are following protocols established to handle the pandemic.
About three or four county people are testing positive for the virus every day, Langer said. People should expect several students a week will come down with the virus for a while, Langer said, because that is where we are in the pandemic. He said the county is remaining steady with about 30 to 40 active cases. “I’d like to see that trend downward, but it hasn’t yet.”
He also said if people want to know the current number for cases in the county, they can go to the county health department website where they list the number of cases daily except on the weekends. For deeper information, the Kansas Department of Health and Environment website has a link on its homepage to information about coronavirus numbers. As of Thursday morning, the county had 297 cases of coronavirus, 316 according to the KDHE. That number includes the cases at the Winfield Correctional Facility, which the county does not count.