By Amy V.T. Moriarty
A fifth-grade student at Anna Maria Elementary tested positive for the novel coronavirus Nov. 4, the school’s first reported case.
Five other people, including a teacher, were identified as direct exposures when principal Jackie Featherston began the required contact tracing protocol.
The student who tested positive was asymptomatic.
The student and five people with direct exposure were sent home Nov. 4 for a 14-day quarantine, as mandated by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Florida State Department of Health.
Featherston provided the information to AME families in a Connect-Ed message and also provided an update to the AME Parent-Teacher Organization Nov. 5.
And, in a follow-up email to The Islander that day, Featherston said one of the student’s parents had contacted a teacher after a close family member — with whom that child had been in earlier contact — tested positive for the novel coronavirus.
Responding, Featherston sent photos of the fifth-grade classroom, copies of a seating chart and other information to Florida Department of Health officials, she informed the PTO in a Zoom meeting Nov. 5.
“There’s quite an elaborate tracking system the health department does,” Featherston said.
According to the CDC, direct exposure is someone who had close contact — less than 6 feet for at least 15 minutes — within the 48 hours before a person began to feel sick or was reported to have been in contact with someone who tested positive for the virus.
The virus that causes COVID-19 is transmitted mainly from person-to-person in close contact through respiratory droplets and also can be airborne.
Public health experts recommend social distancing of at least 6 feet and the wearing of face masks to limit the spread.
“We know that it didn’t come from school,” Featherston told PTO members. “Our families have done an outstanding job to prevent exposure.”
Other students in the class were relocated within the school to continue lessons while the classroom was “thoroughly disinfected,” Featherston said.
She said the students later returned to their homeroom, which was again thoroughly disinfected after school hours.
PTO president Nicole Plummer commended Featherston on the work school staff has done to ensure student safety during the pandemic.
A PTO member identified as Kari K. on the Zoom call typed in the meeting chat box that her family felt safe having their children at the school.
In her message to parents, Featherston wrote, “Please note that portions of the campus have been sanitized with a special disinfectant that is used in addition to the cleaning and sanitizing done by the school’s custodial staff on a daily basis. We will also continue to take mitigation measures including taking temperatures, wearing masks, asking symptom-related questions of all students and staff daily and limiting access to our campus.”
“Most importantly,” she continued, “if a student or staff member feels sick, believes they have symptoms or has had a test for COVID-19, please stay home until you are symptom-free or you are cleared to return to school.”
There were five other positive cases identified within the Manatee County School District on Nov. 5, according to the district’s website, www.manateeschools.net, bringing the total number of cases to 208 districtwide since the school year began Aug. 17.
More information about COVID cases in the district schools is available online at www.manateeschools.net/Page/10223.
The school board was scheduled to meet Nov. 10, after The Islander went to press. Among the issues being discussed is a survey on requiring face masks in schools.
Anna Maria Elementary is at 4700 Gulf Drive, Holmes Beach.
For more information, call the school at 941-708-5525.