COVID outbreak at Westport elementary school spurs more testing

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Westport Superintendent Thomas Scarice at a school board meeting on Monday. Taken Oct. 5, 2020.

Westport Superintendent Thomas Scarice at a school board meeting on Monday. Taken Oct. 5, 2020.

DJ Simmons/Hearst Connecticut Media

WESTPORT — A COVID outbreak at Saugatuck Elementary School has led state health officials to recommend a round of testing for all of the school’s staff and students.

In a message sent to Saugatuck Elementary School families, Westport Superintendent of Schools Thomas Scarice said 15 cases at the school have been identified in the past week.

“Although there appears to be very limited transmission within the school as new cases span multiple grades and classrooms, by definition, a sudden rise in the number of cases at this rate would constitute an outbreak,” Scarice said in the email.

However, the school will remain open, Scarice said, as the state Department of Public Health only recommends closures if there is not enough staff members.

“This is not an issue at this point in time,” Scarice said the email.

He said the district asked DPH officials to review the cases and they confirmed that community transmission — or transmission through after-school activities, large community social events and similar gatherings — likely contributed to the bump in cases.

Scarice said these findings indicate that in-school mitigating measures have been effective.

The DPH recommended that the district offer a round of surveillance testing for all students and staff at the elementary school, which will take place Friday.

In mid-September, Scarice sent a memo to families, stating Westport was offering weekly COVID testing on a voluntary basis. When testing started Sept. 27, there were 269 students who participated and one positive case was identified, according to a memo sent to families Thursday from the school district’s supervisor of health services Suzanne Levasseur.

Results were received the following day, but can take up to 48 hours.

Children whose parents have already consented to the voluntary testing will be included in the testing this Friday, Scarice said.

Those who have not yet consented to the testing and wish for their child to participate in Friday’s testing need to complete a school testing consent form. Those who only want to take part in Friday’s testing and not the weekly screening should email the health office staff so their name can be removed after Friday’s testing, Scarice said.