North Star Elementary plans to close on Friday after someone at the school tested positive for COVID-19.
The Kodiak Area Emergency Services Organization reported three new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday. Larry LeDoux, superintendent for the Kodiak Island Borough School District, said one of those cases was a person at North Star.
He said the school will close Friday for deep cleaning and will reopen on Oct. 15 following three days of previously scheduled inservice training for staff.
This will be the school district’s second school closure, after Peterson Elementary shut its doors for one day last week when a student there contracted the virus.
LeDoux said all students considered close contacts will quarantine for 14 days and attend classes virtually.
According to a statement released by the ESC, one of the three cases reported on Thursday is a resident who is considered a close contact of previously reported cases. The second is a resident case considered to be community spread, and the third is a close contact of the second case.
“All individuals are in isolation. Contact investigations have been conducted or are ongoing.
Staff from the Department of Public Health will remain in contact with the individuals to ensure
self-isolation and care,” said the press release.
This brings the case count associated with the Kodiak Island Borough to 93, 17 of which are classified as active.
One of the three cases was a Coast Guard service member, ESC director Mike Tvenge said during a live community update streamed online Thursday. He added that the Coast Guard has tested all active-duty personnel.
With the ongoing Coast Guard outbreak, in which 14 people have tested positive for COVID-19 since last week, testing sites have seen a higher number of requests for tests, “straining” resources, said Public Health Nurse Bonny Weed.
“I understand why people want to test because they are concerned,” Weed said. “But unless one has symptoms, is a close contact to a known case or unless their doctor, school official or public health (official) tells them to test, periodic testing over time is an excessive strain on our testing structure.”
Although Kodiak’s community spread rate has remained low during the past six months, it is now increasing, Tvenge said on Thursday.
Despite the increase, the community remains at the green, or lowest, risk level. Tvenge said the decision to stay at this level was made because of the source of recent cases, and the ability to quarantine early and isolate the positive personnel.
“Our risk level could change if the situation warrants it,” he said.
The EOC developed the community mitigation plan risk levels to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 in Kodiak, Tvenge said.
Each risk level is associated with increasing restrictions and is dependent on the severity of community spread.
If the community were to go into the medium yellow level, gatherings larger than 20 people without the ability to social distance would be prohibited and face covering would be highly recommended, he said.
For the highest risk level, or red, essential services and critical infrastructure would be the only businesses allowed to operate. Face covering would be required.
Statewide testing has also increased this week with the test positivity rate increasing from 2.4% to 3.9%, compared to the national average of 4.6%. The state’s positive testing rate is the highest it has ever been, said a state Department of Health and Social Services press release.
“Since Alaska’s per-capita testing capacity is more robust than almost any other state, the finding that the positivity rate is nearing the national average is concerning,” said the press release.
The release noted that positive test results measure whether testing is adequate in a given area, and highlight the number of tests performed rather than how much the virus is spreading in a community.
Although the majority of new infections among Alaskans are from community spread, many cases do not have a clear source.
“This means that there are cases in our communities that we do not know about,” said the release.