Five cases of COVID-19 were reported by the East Valley Institute of Technology in the first three weeks of the school year, but since then none have cropped up at either of its Mesa locations.
EVIT spokeswoman CeCe Todd told the Progress that while the cases were reported to the Maricopa County Department of Public Health as well as on its website, the school is not divulging to the general public whether they involved students or faculty because of privacy rules.
The district for the same reason also is not publicly disclosing the schools or communities that the infected individuals come from. EVIT serves high school juniors and seniors from 11 East Valley school districts – including Scottsdale Unified – as well as students from charter and private schools and households that home-school their teens.
“We can’t separate the number of students from staff because we would risk violating the confidentiality of the staff at the East Campus, where the number of employees is much smaller. That’s why when we set up the page, we combined the staff and student numbers. We can’t say which districts the students come from because we would risk violating the confidentiality of students from our smaller districts, such as Fountain Hills and Cave Creek,” Todd said.
EVIT opened for full five-day in-class opening when its school year began Aug. 17.
Todd said that to her knowledge, none of the cases ended in hospitalization. She said both the county and EVIT health aides follow up with individuals.
Todd said the county EVIT reports all cases to Maricopa County Public Health, which also follows up with feeder schools on potential exposures.
“Our EVIT health aides also interview infected students and staff for contact tracing purposes,” Todd said.
Students or staff who are diagnosed with COVID-19 but have no symptoms are required to stay at home for 10 days from the date of their first positive COVID-19 test. Those who are diagnosed with COVID-19 and have at least one symptom must stay at home for 10 days since their first symptoms developed and after having no fever for at least 24 hours without use of fever-reducing medication.
Before those students can return to school, their parents must contact the campus health aide to get their OK, Todd said.
The cases did not require temporary suspension of any EVIT classes, according to Todd.
She said EVIT has contracted with a janitorial services provider for cleaning and disinfecting services.
“When there is a COVID-19 exposure on campus, the janitorial service disinfects all exposed areas, cleans the affected area with appropriate chemicals, disinfects the area again and removes disinfectant residue,” she said. “They use EPA-recommended chemicals in a Protexus Electrostatic sprayer. That’s in addition to the regular cleaning and disinfecting of the campus that’s going on throughout the day.”
Medical experts say that it is not surprising that once schools open for in-class learning that some COVID-19 infections will occur.
“It’s not a question of if, but when outbreaks will occur,” said Dr. Leana Wen, an emergency physician and the former health commissioner of Baltimore, in an interview last week with the New York Times.
It also quoted Dr. Benjamin Linas, an associate professor of medicine and epidemiology at Boston University, who said, “We have to be realistic. If we are opening schools, there will be some COVID.”