Covid shuts down Block Island School
The students at the Block Island School returned to distance learning for Thursday and Friday this week as Covid 19 has found its way back into the student body. Last weekend, a student tested positive after an off-island junior varsity basketball game. The school sprang into action, testing 52 additional students as a precaution on Saturday. Luckily, all 52 tests came back negative.
Unfortunately, on Wednesday three more students tested positive, with Superintendent Bob Gerardi verifying to The Block Island Times that the three new cases were spread throughout the various pods in the school. The school is using a pod system to keep students somewhat separated into elementary, middle school, and high school pods. Since the new cases were in different pods, the decision was made to move the entire school into distance learning for Thursday and Friday with hopes of returning to in-person learning on Monday, December 20. Gerardi says “deep cleaning” has already begun in preparation for Monday.
Gerardi said the school was working with the Medical Center “to understand what is going on in the greater community.” Medical Center Director Tom Warcup addressed the Town Council on Wednesday night explaining that including the three new cases at the school, there had been 12 new cases on Block Island in the past eight days. Nine of the new cases are breakthrough cases.
“To get 12 in an eight-day period of time is concerning,” Warcup said. Warcup went on to say that two of the cases were patients over 65, four cases were adolescents, and six cases were in the 19 to 64 age range. “We had six cases today [Wednesday]. There are definitely going to be more,” Warcup told the council. To slow the spread, he emphasized the importance of keeping the school kids from congregating while they are in distance learning. Warcup stressed that if the school is going virtual, it is important to make sure the kids actually stay separated. “We are in this together,” he said, imploring the community to wear masks, socially distance, and keep the kids from congregating.
Dr. Warcup confirmed that the school and the Rescue Squad would be working more closely with the Medical Center. The three entities will have weekly meetings attended by Linda Closter on behalf of the school, Dr. Warcup, and Rescue Captain Tracy Fredericks. Warcup explained that the PCR tests administered by the school, medical center, and rescue squad are sent to different labs, and reported back to each group separately. Part of the impetus for weekly meetings is to fill each other in on the week’s test results.
In light of Governor McKee’s recently announced mask guidelines, Council Member Mark Emmanuelle asked if the mask mandate on Block Island was affected. Town Manager Maryanne Crawford confirmed that Block Island’s mask mandate was still in effect for all indoor public spaces and was more stringent than the state guidelines. Crawford explained that municipalities were allowed to have stricter guidelines than the state, but could not have less stringent regulations than the state requires.
Dr. Warcup reiterated to the council, “Mask wearing is important, vaccinations are important; the data is quite compelling.” He went on to say that
vaccination choices were a matter of free will, and people could choose not to be vaccinated. “But you cannot choose how someone else will react to the virus,” Warcup said, calling unvaccinated people going into public without masks “reckless, in my opinion.”
The next vaccination clinic is December 29, with signups available at www.vaccinateRI.org.