Follow-up tests came back negative for an adult employee at Durango High School who was suspected of suffering from COVID-19 on Tuesday, and 69 students who were sent home for remote learning will return to school Friday.
Julie Popp, spokeswoman with Durango School District 9-R, said the employee’s first nasal swab test came back inconclusive, but a follow-up test taken Wednesday came back negative.
Students were sent home for remote learning Wednesday and Thursday as a precautionary measure based on advice from San Juan Basin Public Health and the number of students who could have been exposed, Popp said.
9-R Superintendent Dan Snowberger said the district tried to anticipate a wide variety of scenarios that might develop based on student or staff member infections from the novel coronavirus, but the district never envisioned dealing with an inconclusive case.
“The inconclusive case led the health department to go ahead – and just to err on the side of safety – recommend that we begin quarantines,” Snowberger said.
For future inconclusive cases, Popp said the school district will be guided by advice from SJBPH and by the number of students who might be exposed. The district will likely again err on the side of safety and begin quarantines for future inconclusive cases, but each case has so many variables, that might not always be the case, Popp said.
The district is also working to inform the public as quickly as it can about potential COVID-19 cases, either confirmed positives or inconclusive cases to be as transparent as possible with the community, Popp said.
Many parents, she said, have informed the district that getting information about an inconclusive case causes more anxiety and they preferred to be informed only about confirmed positive cases. Other parents want to be informed about all potential cases including inconclusive ones, she said.
“We want to be as transparent as possible with the community,” Popp said.
Most of the 69 students sent home are five-day-a-week in-person learners, but a few of the students were following a blended model of learning, spending two days a week in classes at school and three days a week at home learning remotely.
The 69 students were in three different cohorts. Cohorts, groups of students who stay together during the school day for all their classes, were set up this year to minimize person-to-person contacts.
9-R is working with Cedar Diagnostics, a Durango medical laboratory, to provide quick turnaround for nasal swab tests – with testing provided within a day of a suspected infection and results back within 48 hours.
Snowberger said the district is also working to add the capability to do COVID-19 rapid testing, which would mean the district would be able to offer tests that provide results within 15 minutes.
In a separate case, 15 Florida Mesa Elementary students in one cohort are under self-quarantine until Sept. 16 after test results for one student came back positive.