Families across New Trier Township were anticipating this week, as it was the first week students returned to campus at New Trier High School.
While New Trier saw increases to both active COVID-19 cases (from 5 to 9) and quarantined students and staff (from 70 to 95) since Tuesday, they were expected, according to Niki Dizon, the district’s director of communications.
New Trier requires a health screening before entering campus. Prior to Tuesday, Oct. 6, New Trier’s buildings were only open to staff and “specialized” student populations. Therefore, a limited number of individuals were filling out health forms. With more forms, comes more positive cases, she said.
Most importantly, Dizon said, none of the current COVID-19-positive students have been on campus since their diagnosis.
“We have pretty extensive health screening and contact tracing on our campuses,” she told The Record. “In the past week … more parents are filling out that screening and informing us of positive cases. They didn’t need to fill it out before because their kids did not need to come on campus.
“I can tell you that none of the positive cases have shown up for classes. We have not had any spread.”
Seventy-five of the 90 quarantined are students. Seventy-five students is approximately 1.8 percent of the school’s student population, per the school’s data.
Outside of the nine confirmed cases, 18 New Trier students are showing symptoms of the virus but have either obtained a negative test or are seeking an alternative diagnosis, according to the school.
A dozen staff members are symptomatic but have also tested negative or are seeking a second diagnosis. New Trier has had zero positive cases among staff so far this year.
Fifty-seven students and eight staff members are asymptotic after close contact to a confirmed COVID-19 case, per the dashboard.
Dizon added that “a few” of the nine students who has tested positive were involved in extracurricular activities. She would not clarify which activities, but said the district worked with the health department to contract trace and quarantine at-risk students and staff.
“When we are informed of a positive case, contact tracing protocols are to trace backward 48 hours from the time of an indication of COVID symptoms or positive diagnosis,” Dizon wrote in an email. “In a few cases, students who did not have symptoms had participated in an extracurricular activity in the 48 hours prior, so in those cases we worked with the Cook County Department of Public Health to determine potential risk and recommended quarantine for some other students who participated in the same activity and were determined to fit the CCDPH definition of close contact.”
If the student contracted COVID-19 outside of the high school, as in all nine student cases so far, the health department leads contact tracing and informs New Trier on what “level of quarantine is necessary.”
“We have the strictest protocols in place,” she said. “Any symptom on health screening that could be associated with COVID-19, (that individual) needs to be excluded from school until the symptoms are resolved or they get a negative COVID test back.
“Basically the way we have to safely operate is to expect them to be honest and expect to sometimes be in quarantine.”
Dizon said New Trier officials have been “clear from the beginning” that students and staff should expect to quarantine at some point this school year.