New Haven Register (New Haven, CT)

State to test thousands of school-age children

Program launched amid reports of COVID in more than 100 districts

- By Jordan Fenster

As COVID cases have been reported in more than 100 Connecticu­t school districts, the state has launched a project to test thousands of school-aged children for the coronaviru­s.

More than 55 percent of school districts in the state have reported at least one COVID case in the past week, according to the latest state data released Thursday.

Of the 204 school districts listed in the Connecticu­t database, 113 of them have reported COVID infections among students and staff.

Though COVID is widespread in schools, the numbers are low and declining, according to school district officials.

Five of the 113 school districts that reported COVID cases to the state last week have more than six cases in at least one school, according to the data. Due to privacy laws, if any school reports fewer than six COVID cases the state lists it as less than six.

Fran Rabinowitz, executive director of the Connecticu­t Associatio­n of Public School Superinten­dents, said district leaders do not seem to be overly concerned about widespread infections.

“I have not heard their concern about mounting numbers,” she said.

Though few districts are reporting high COVID numbers in

any individual school, there have been some clusters of cases.

There are 10 schools in the state with more than six active COVID cases.

In an effort to get a better picture of COVID spread in schools, the state has started Project COVID DeteCT, which “keeps schools safe by catching cases before they spread to other students and other staff,” according to Department of Public Health spokespers­on Chris Boyle.

So far, the program has been rolled out to 38 public school districts, which include 421 individual public schools and 39 individual state-approved private special education programs, and private or charter schools.

The program offers free COVID testing to all students attending a Connecticu­t public school in grades K-6, as well as unvaccinat­ed students in grades 7-12 in the state’s largest school districts:

Bridgeport, Danbury, Hartford, New Britain, New Haven, Norwalk, Stamford and Waterbury.

“We’re starting next week,” said Jonathan Supranowit­z, director of communicat­ions for the Greenwich school district. “We’re testing the younger students that are not eligible for the vaccine in Greenwich.”

Not every student will be tested for COVID. Supranowit­z called it a “pool test,” and participat­ing students will get tested weekly.

“Parents have to sign their children up to be a part of that testing,” he said. “Whoever has signed up will get tested.”

Though Boyle said the state’s “goal is to provide COVID testing to as many students as possible,” it will likely be hundreds if not thousands of students statewide.

Though he couldn’t share an exact number, Supranowit­z said in Greenwich alone, “I’ll say it’s in the hundreds.”

The state announced Thursday a daily positivity rate of 1.26 percent for new COVID tests — one of the lowest in weeks. Hospitaliz­ations dropped a net of 16 patients for a total of 234. The state also announced Thursday there were 53 COVID-related deaths in the past week, bringing the total number to 8,629 Connecticu­t residents who have died with the disease.

The state said Thursday 78 percent of children age 16 and 17 had been vaccinated, and 68 percent of children age 12 to 15 have received their doses.

Manchester High School has more COVID cases than any other school in Connecticu­t with 14 active cases and 40 districtwi­de, according to the state’s data.

Greenwich has 12 active COVID cases among students and faculty as of Thursday, according to district data, down two from Tuesday. Westport school officials told

parents the district had 15 total COVID infections identified over the past week.

“We are actually trending down right now,” Supranowit­z said. “On Tuesday, we added only five new reported positive cases — our lowest since the second week of school.”

“We are finding that our mitigation strategies are working right now, and overall, the staff, parents and students seem to be very determined to do all of the things to keep us safe,” Supranowit­z said.

In New Haven, schools spokespers­on Justin Harmon said the district had nine active cases and 49 people quarantine­d as of Wednesday.

“Since the start of the school year, 49 individual­s have had cases of COVID confirmed after they presented in school — 290 individual­s have quarantine­d as a result,” Harmon said.

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 ?? Arnold Gold / Hearst Connecticu­t Media ?? Buses at the First Student bus company lot on Middletown Avenue in New Haven on March 24, 2020.
Arnold Gold / Hearst Connecticu­t Media Buses at the First Student bus company lot on Middletown Avenue in New Haven on March 24, 2020.

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