ARLINGTON — Public Health Director Natasha Waden, Town Manager Adam Chapdelaine, Director of Health and Human Services Christine Bongiorno, and Superintendent of Schools Kathleen Bodie report that the Town of Arlington has received notification of a presumptive positive case of COVID-19, the illness associated with the novel coronavirus, in a parent of an Arlington Public School student. That student is also showing symptoms and has been tested for COVID-19. As a result, officials have decided to close the Stratton Elementary School for Monday.
Officials are awaiting test results on the student.
Town officials took into account, in deciding to close the Stratton School on Monday, that Arlington’s Board of Health believes that this is the first or one of the first COVID-19 tests of a symptomatic sitting student in a Massachusetts Public School whose parent tested positive for the illness.
“It is never an easy decision to close a school building. We are ever-mindful of childcare needs and family schedules, however we are faced with a challenging and uncertain situation,” Superintendent Bodie said. “Without test results in hand, and with a parent who has tested positive for COVID-19, the leadership team in Arlington unanimously feels that it is best to close the Stratton on Monday and re-evaluate during the day. I would like to thank our public health and public safety leaders as well as Town Manager Chapdelaine for their guidance and teamwork as we respond to our portion of this worldwide issue.”
Health officials are not recommending any further action on the part of school families. All other schools in Arlington will open Monday and operate normally. However, if families or children display symptoms of COVID-19, including a fever, cough or shortness of breath, they should not come to work or school.
The Town of Arlington was notified that a resident, a woman in her 40s who attended a Biogen employee conference last week developed symptoms and tested positive for COVID-19. One of her children, who attends the Stratton School, is showing symptoms and is being tested, but those test results remain pending as of Sunday evening.
The second parent in the household and their other child, who attends the Gibbs School are symptom free but shall remain in self-quarantine until a 14-day period has elapsed, in accordance with guidance from the Massachusetts Department of Health (MDPH).
Arlington’s health officials are also awaiting test results which involve another Arlington family, a member of which also attended the Biogen conference, whose children attend school at Dallin Elementary, Gibbs, and Arlington High School. None of those results are in yet, and in accordance with guidance received by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, the other schools in Arlington shall remain open. That family is in self-quarantine at this time.
Health Director Waden reports that the patient is at home and that these two families will continue to be monitored and supported by public health officials.
The Arlington presumptive positive case is included in the 15 cases announced by state public health officials Sunday. A total of 28 cases of COVID-19 have been reported in Massachusetts as of Sunday afternoon. The Massachusetts State Public Health Lab’s results are considered “presumptive positive” and the specimens will now be sent to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for final confirmation.
The risk of COVID-19 to the general public in Massachusetts remains low at this time.
The school district has already taken advantage of the empty buildings on the weekend to sanitize and disinfect the school buildings, including Dallin Elementary, Stratton Elementary, Gibbs Middle School, and Arlington High School. Cleaning crews have been on site since Sunday morning and will have those four buildings fully cleaned and disinfected before the start of school on Monday.
Crews will be back at the Stratton performing a second clean-up on Monday.
These efforts include the use of electrostatic machines and disinfecting spray, which are particularly effective at mitigating infections and viruses, with special attention to commonly touched surfaces and objects including but not limited to door handles, desks, chairs, gym equipment, floors, lavatories, teachers equipment, offices,and computers. These steps are not necessarily unusual, given that similar methods are used periodically during flu season anyway, and health officials remind residents that the seasonal flu remains a far more widespread danger to the general public than the coronavirus. Superintendent Kathleen Bodie wishes to thank and commend that APS facilities staff for their hard work Sunday.
“We have an excellent facilities staff at the Arlington Public Schools, and they have the latest and most effective cleaning tools and products at their disposal,” Superintendent Bodie said. “As always we encourage everyone to practice good hand-washing routines and monitor themselves and their children for any signs of illness.”
Any students who have to self-quarantine will be allowed to continue her lessons from home using the latest in virtual classroom technologies.
As always, children and adults should be reminded to take everyday precautionary steps to stay healthy, including:
- Wash hands frequently, with soap and hot water, for at least 20 seconds.
- When you are sick, stay home to protect others and practice social distancing.
- Always cover your cough or sneeze.
“The Town of Arlington is well-prepared to respond to the coronavirus situation. Our leadership teams are meeting weekly, and we have detailed plans and procedures in place to ensure safety and continuity of municipal services,” Town Manager Chapdelaine said. “We have been meeting in anticipation that our community and any of our 43,000 residents could become ill, and we are delivering services and support to those affected by the coronavirus.”
In a planning meeting on Friday, Fire Chief and Emergency Management Director Kevin Kelley implemented the federal Incident Command System. Director Waden was named the Incident Commander for COVID-19 preparedness and response in Arlington.
The Arlington Health Department will continue to monitor the global spread of COVID-19 and continue to keep residents informed.
For more information, the Town of Arlington Health and Human Services COVID-19 page or call the health department at 781-316-3170. You may also visit the DPH’s website by clicking here and the CDC’s website by clicking here.
Additional updates will be provided as information becomes available.