During our weekly ZOOM meeting today, that included local Superintendents and representatives of the Allegheny County Health Department (ACHD), we were advised that Allegheny County, based on the recent number of COVID-19 cases, will likely be moved from a state of "moderate transmission" to a state of "substantial transmission" as part of the PA Department of Health's update tomorrow.
Immediately following this afternoon's meeting, I reached out to Chuck Miller who serves as Chief Fire Marshal for our PH Municipality and who is also a member of our PHSD Pandemic Review Committee to discuss more PH-specific updates. Chuck shared that there have been 553 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in our PH community since March 4, 2020, including seven (7) deaths. He said there is no evidence of rapid transmission in our PH community at this point; however, we both realize we are vulnerable to increases at any time. Consistent with what the ACHD representative shared with us earlier today, family gatherings and parties continue to be the greatest source of spread. Currently, there is no evidence that significant spread is occurring in our PHSD schools, as WE have had 14 confirmed cases of COVID-19 among PHSD affiliates (students, staff, and/or approved volunteers) since March 13, 2020, and of this group of 14, four (4) individuals haven't been on property since the mandated school closure in March. Currently, WE have two (2) PHSD affiliates who are out and awaiting test results, and OUR records indicate 36 affiliates to date have tested negative for COVID-19 since March 13, 2020.
Following my conversation with Chuck, I next contacted OUR PHSD Physician Dr. Robert Crossey and reviewed the same PH-specific information. Dr. Crossey agreed that there is no evidence to suggest attendance at school within OUR PHSD is contributing to community spread. He also agreed that OUR closely monitored model of keeping students separate while at school, limiting student travel throughout the day, and continuing to eat all meals in classrooms have proven to be effective COVID-19 mitigation strategies thus far.
I also asked both experts today to weigh in on OUR current PHSD plans to increase onsite learning time from a 2-day hybrid option to a 4-day hybrid option for students enrolled in grades 1, 6, 7, 8, 11, and 12, as of Tuesday, December 1, assuming local conditions remain stable. Both Chuck Miller and Dr. Crossey support staying the course due to the many benefits of being in school, including more managed supervision of student movement for the bulk of the day, which cannot always be managed when adults in the household are working or have other obligations. However, both stressed the need for continued review and close monitoring of OUR local situation before any long-term commitments are made.
So, despite the change in status expected tomorrow by the PA Department of Health, WE expect to stay the course at PHSD. WE will NOT be shifting to 100% remote learning at this time. WE continue to ask that all PHSD student and staff households remain vigilant as WE continue navigation of this very challenging time. PLEASE continue wearing your masks while onsite at PHSD and while in contact with individuals outside your immediate household. PLEASE maintain distance and continue practicing and reinforcing regular handwashing among your friends and family. No student or staff member should report onsite within the PHSD if any symptoms associated with COVID-19 are being experienced. These include but are not limited to: sore throat, fever, cough, sneezing, runny nose, loss of taste or smell, body aches, vomiting, or diarrhea. PLEASE limit your travel, especially over the upcoming holidays, and adhere to 14 days of quarantine if you travel to any state outside PA that is designated as a "hot spot" on the day of your return to PA.
In closing, I would like to offer sincere appreciation of the many families and staff who have been forthright about potential COVID-19 exposure within your households. Your willingness to trust us with personal information based on your commitment to maintaining a safe learning environment for our students and a safe working environment for our staff has made all the difference. WE also appreciate the assistance WE have been receiving from the Allegheny Health Department and their 24/7 accessibility, which supports continued consultation when WE receive various updates and when WE need to decide when to invoke quarantine or other related action for a PHSD affiliate. This TEAM effort has been integral as WE strive to keep onsite learning options available to OUR students and families who need them the most.
WE wish EVERYONE continued good health. As always, do not hesitate to contact me directly should you have questions and/or concerns.