An employee at Kincaid Elementary School in Anchorage tested positive for COVID-19 last week, according to the Anchorage School District.
That employee was in the building with 18 other district employees while at work in the school on April 29, said district spokesman Alan Brown. The infected employee had taken a test for COVID-19 just a few days earlier.
The Anchorage Health Department has screened and cleared 16 of the Kincaid Elementary School employees and they will be able to return to work later this week, Brown said. Two others tested negative for the disease and will also be able to return to work soon.
To date, seven district employees have tested positive for COVID-19 who were in school buildings or around other staff or students, according to Brown. That includes a case at Chugiak High School in March.
While in the school building, the infected staff member wore a mask and gloves and kept a good distance between them and others, Brown said. The staff member was not showing symptoms at that point.
“The staff member went to work just for a day. They did follow all the protocols and limited contact and so forth,” Brown said. “And then they found out the morning of the 30th that the test was positive.”
The infected employee did not go into the building for the first two days of the week, Brown said. But on Wednesday, the school was preparing to do several projects, including organizing the return of left-behind belongings to students and teachers, part of a massive effort to clean out classrooms and lockers.
A doctor had advised the staff member that because he or she did not have any symptoms, the person could safely go to work while following proper safety protocols like staying at least 6 feet apart from others and wearing personal protective equipment like a mask and gloves, Brown said. At that point, the infected employee did not yet have the test result.
According to Brown, the staff member, “out of an abundance of caution,” sought the testing. A doctor had not recommended the test.
The staff member had “no symptoms, hadn’t been around anybody that was positive, but they had come into contact with somebody else who had been recommended to get tested,” Brown said.
When the district learned that the employee had tested positive for the disease, it notified Kincaid Elementary staff members and students’ families, Brown said.
The pickup days for student belongings at Kincaid Elementary have been canceled and have been postponed until further notice, Brown said.
School buildings are closed statewide through the end of the academic year, and the infected employee has not come into contact with any students since before spring break.
“If any of our employees are feeling sick we’ve been very, very clear that they need to stay home,” Brown said.
The district was not previously aware that the staff member was going to be tested for the disease. The staff member told a supervisor after taking the test and immediately notified the district when the result was positive, Brown said.
ASD also encourages its employees to get COVID-19 tests, but it doesn’t necessarily track how many employees are getting tested or the test results.
“An employee can go to their own doctor, get a test, get the results, and that’s obviously a very personal thing,” Brown said.
The district will only keep tabs if an employee tests positive and has spent time in a school building or was in contact with other school district employees or students, Brown said.
“We’ve been closely tracking those that have tested positive if they have been in a building since spring break,” Brown said.
All positive COVID-19 cases are routed through the Anchorage Health Department, where a team of nurses — including Anchorage School District nurses — does “contact tracing” to track down anyone who may have been exposed.
“As a school district, we would absolutely hope that everybody would be forthright and let folks know. One, so we can let everybody know who was potentially in contact,” Brown said. “But also we would want to offer and make sure we can support that employee when they are sick or in quarantine.”
As of Wednesday, 10 Alaskans had died from the disease so far out of 372 cases, with 284 people considered recovered. The newest case, reported Wednesday, was diagnosed in a Tok resident, a woman in her 70s, health officials said.
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