Covid cases in Hopewell Township continued to increase this week, albeit more slowly than we have seen since Christmas. New cases had been topping at more than 50 per week; this past week the Township reported 28 new cases. Click here for the most recent local, County, and State numbers.
No where is the upward trend more apparent than in emails from the Hopewell Valley Regional School District (HVRSD) sent to District families several times per week in recent months announcing new student and staff positive cases.
In a message sent January 25, District Superintendent Thomas Smith pleaded with families to be more careful:
“I am writing to enlist your support as we see a disturbing trend in the most recent COVID-19 cases in Hopewell Valley. Contact tracing data from our recent cases indicate that students have been exposed at house parties, sleep-overs, family gatherings, and/or from failure to follow the 14-day quarantine.
Many of us are feeling “COVID fatigue” and a strong desire to return to a normal school day; however, if we do not follow the guidelines below and those established by the CDC and State, the safety of our students and staff is compromised. Failure to follow our guidelines also hinders our ability to move forward with our return to school planning. We have dedicated a tremendous amount of resources to ensure that we are providing the safest environment possible and the poor decision of one individual can put this work in jeopardy.
I would like to remind you of our screening protocols. Failure to comply with these protocols will result in exclusion from our in-person programs and activities.
- All in-person students must complete the screening form each day prior to coming to school.
- All in-person students and staff must wear a mask on school grounds and when participating in school activities.
- All Students and staff MUST stay home if:
- They have tested positive (viral test) for COVID-19 or are awaiting test results (even if there has been a negative rapid test).
- Someone in their household is being tested for COVID-19 due to illness or has COVID-like symptoms. All siblings in the household who attend HVRSD must stay home (they may return if that person’s test results are negative).
- They are exhibiting any COVID-19 compatible symptoms.
- They have been in contact with a person with COVID-19 or COVID-like symptoms in the past 14 days or have had potential exposure to a person with COVID-19.
- They have traveled to an area with high levels of COVID-19 transmission in the past 14 days
“We require your continued assistance in following the guidelines listed above. For the health and safety of all, we implore you to remain vigilant in your approach to dealing with this public health concern. Your assistance is critical as we seek to keep our schools open and our programs operational. Working together, with strict adherence to these guidelines, we will chart a course toward normalcy for our students and staff.”
A review of statistics posted by HVRSD indicates that protocols required for in-person learning have a positive effect.
The District’s chart shows total cases and provides details of every case, including an asterisk if the student was not in the school building at the time of positive COVID diagnosis. 57 of the 72 cases, or 79%, are individuals who were “not in school”.
When asked to clarify, what “not in school means,” Smith stated in an email:
“The asterisk includes students and staff who are either fully remote or were doing the right thing and quarantining due to exposure outside of school and reported to us that they were positive. Our most recent cases [of in school individuals] involve students who knowingly came to school (or a sports practice) not feeling well, didn’t respond to our screen questions accurately, and then tested positive either later that day or the next day.”
Smith added that strict adherence to protocols by District families is crucial to protecting students and staff.