The Sitka School Board met Tuesday (9-20-16) at Keet Gooshi Heen Elementary School to discuss absenteeism.
(KCAW Photo)

A staff member at Keet Gooshi Heen Elementary School has tested positive for the coronavirus. 

The city reported the new case on Thursday (10-22-20). The woman is in her fifties and was not experiencing symptoms when she was tested on Tuesday. The case is tied to community spread, according to city data.

In an interview with KCAW, Sitka school district business manager Cassee Olin confirmed that the new patient is a staff member at the elementary school. She was tested as part of the school district’s bi-weekly protocol. It’s the third case the school district has tracked since they resumed in-person classes this fall. The first two cases were at Blatchley Middle School.

Olin said public health nurse Denise Ewing has completed contact tracing. One staff member is isolating and two more staff members are now quarantining. 

She said that when a staff member tests positive, they are immediately sent home. The “pod” or cohort of students the staff member interacted with is then quarantined to their classroom for the day until the school receives directions from public health about which students and staff should test and quarantine.

Olin said those who were in close contact with the patient have been directed to test at the SEARHC testing tent after seven days, to ensure a more accurate test. She said each scenario is different. In this case, she said parents were given an option of keeping their students at home or sending them to school in the interim. Students in the potentially exposed pod are bussed separately and quarantined while they’re at school, provided they don’t have symptoms. 

“It’s good to see that our mitigation plans are working and we are doing what we need to do to contain a staff member who is positive,” Olin said.

This brings Sitka’s cumulative case count to 73. Only one of the cases is active.

The state counted another new case in Sitka earlier this week. In an email to KCAW, public health nurse Denise Ewing said that the patient was an Anchorage resident with an old Sitka address. She said these errors sometimes happen when the state reports new cases, and that local numbers tracked on the city’s website are generally more accurate.