WARWICK, RI — Pilgrim High Remote classes will last through Thanksgiving, Warwick Schools announced, following a COVID-19 outbreak likely stemming from the recent homecoming dance Nov. 6.
Over the weekend of Nov. 13, a letter to parents from Warwick Public Schools urged students and staff to get tested for COVID-19 attributed the uptick in cases to a “recent school-related gathering.”
“As of 11/15, there has been a concerning uptick in COVID-19 cases identified among Pilgrim High students and staff,” the RIDOH commented about the situation. Pilgrim High remote learning was also begun Monday.
“The school has had roughly 30 cases, between students and staff,” said Joseph Wendelken, spokesman for the RI Department of Health. “While students and staff could have had multiple potential exposures, more than half of them did attend the same homecoming dance on Nov. 6. We became aware of this connection through our case investigations.”
On Friday at 5:30 p.m., Leah Hazelwood announced on the Community of Warwick Schools – Better Together page, that Pilgrim High School will continue with remote learning on Monday, Nov. 22 and Tuesday, Nov. 23. Thanksgiving recess starts Wednesday, Nov. 24, and In-person classes resume Monday, Nov. 29.
“Please continue to email positive COVID test results to Ms. Bernardi. In particular those tests that were taken at independent testing sites, such as CVS and Walgreens,” Hazelwood told parents.
Wendelken said school leadership has been very responsive and has been a great partner in responding to the cases that have been identified.
Attempts to reach Warwick Schools Superintendent Lynn Dambruch about COVID-19 precautions taken during the homecoming dance were not immediately returned.
Comments and posts on the Community of Warwick Schools-Better Together page show an 80’X 120′ tent was used for the event, which several hundred Pilgrim High School students attended. Testing for COVID-19 was required before the dance, but when weather postponed it from Oct. 29 to Nov. 6, tests submitted for the Oct. 29 date were accepted for the Nov. 6 date, which would have made some of those tests several days old by the time of the dance.
A photo posted of the tent used appears to show windows, but it’s not clear if those windows provided any ventilation for people crowded inside.
Ventilation remains a significant factor in preventing the spread of COVID-19, but does not prevent large particle transmission from coughs or speaking, which requires masks. Masks and ventilation must be combined for maximum protection, but are still not 100 percent proof against infection, as experts explained nearly a year ago in a WarwickPost.com report.
This is a test