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Two COVID-19 cases identified in Mat-Su schools this week

Mat-Su Borough School District sign, Sept. 24, 2020. (Bill Roth / ADN)

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Two COVID-19 cases were identified in Wasilla schools within the Matanuska-Susitna Borough School District this week, prompting one of the schools to temporarily close.

A coronavirus case confirmed in an individual at Wasilla Middle School on Tuesday triggered an early dismissal of students, according to district spokeswoman Jillian Morrissey. The school will close for cleaning Wednesday, she said.

Cottonwood Creek Elementary in Wasilla also saw a COVID-19 case on Monday, Morrissey said. That case did not necessitate a school closure Tuesday because contact tracing efforts identified the people who were in close contact with the person who tested positive, and those people were excluded from school on Tuesday, she said.

Morrissey said in a statement that she could not disclose whether the cases involve staff members or students.

Custodial staff at the middle school will disinfect the building beginning Tuesday and finishing Wednesday, she said. Students there will switch to at-home learning for the day on Wednesday.

Contact tracing efforts from public health workers are underway for the middle school case, Morrissey said.

Mat-Su schools have experienced a string of short closures due to coronavirus cases identified since opening for in-person school in August, but public health officials say they have yet to detect any spread from those cases.

“We have not traced any cases to in-school transmission,” Mat-Su public health nurse Rene Dillow said Tuesday.

The steps schools are taking to limit the spread of the virus are working so far, Dillow said.

She said it’s possible that in-school spread could begin to occur as the year goes on.

The district has required students in grades three through 12 to wear masks while in school, and implemented other mitigation techniques like reducing the number of classes for middle and high school students per day and using seating charts to make contact tracing easier.

The Mat-Su Borough this week saw an uptick in reported daily COVID-19 cases. There were 19 coronavirus cases confirmed among residents Monday, with 11 in Wasilla and eight in Palmer, according to Department of Health and Human Services data reported Tuesday. There are currently 246 residents with active COVID-19 cases in the borough.

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