Someone at Forest Avenue School has tested positive for COVID-19, Superintendent Dr. Rui Dionisio said by email today. Separately, the Verona Recreation Department said that a child registered in several of its programs had also tested positive. In accordance with medical privacy laws, neither individual was named or otherwise identified.
The Montclair Health Department, which handles public health matters for Verona, is doing contact tracing on both cases. The Recreation Department said that the contact tracing on its case has enabled health officials to determine that the child was “not contagious during the last classes that he/she attended. With that clarification, the affected programs will continue as scheduled.” The school district said that the Montclair Health Department is notifying any individual identified as being a close contact with its positive individual to self quarantine and monitor symptoms.
The Board of Education was repeatedly question by the public at last night’s meeting about why the school district couldn’t provide more information on its cases. BOE member Sara Drappi appealed to the public for understanding. “I think it is important for the public to understand that, in terms of reporting, there is really very very little information that can be divulged regarding who how old they are,” she said, “like whether it’s a staff member or a student, whether they’re remote or hybrid because even those little bits of information can give away too much and you can violate privacy laws. You know, I’m a parent, you know I’m a teacher and I understand it is really scary when we get those emails, but I think it’s also really important to take a breath and understand that the person’s privacy is protected by law. And there’s literally nothing that we can do about that.”
According to statistics from Essex County, the number of positive COVID cases in Verona has risen to 204 as of today, up from 162 on October 1. That is an increase of almost 26%. The number of COVID-19 deaths in Verona remains unchanged at 14.
At the meeting, the BOE was also asked what increase in case levels would cause it to shut a school or to roll back the district’s education plan to more virtual learning. “That really is hard to pinpoint,” Dionisio said, “because it depends on where the concentration of that would be would it be in a grade level, where the close contacts would it be in a specific school. So it’s a very nuanced, very fluid matter and it really depends on the once again the guidance of the Montclair Health Department. That’s a question that is asked repeatedly and that’s part of every conversation that Mr. Merkler has with the Health Department as to whether or not the case that’s in front of us are cases that are in front of us is actually triggering a shutdown of a grade, a class or school.” Athletic Director Bob Merkler is the school district’s liaison to the Montclair Health Department.