Less than 48 hours after students returned to class at Saucon Valley High School, following two weeks of remote learning because of a cluster of cases within it, another COVID-19 case was confirmed there.
District superintendent Dr. Craig Butler announced the finding in an email to parents early Wednesday, in which he said the district was notified of the case Tuesday evening.
“The district has taken immediate action by notifying the Pennsylvania Department of Health,” Butler said. “This protocol is based on recommendations from the Pennsylvania Department of Education, Pennsylvania Department of Health and the district-approved Health and Safety Plan.”
He added that the new case will not affect operations in any of the district’s three schools, including the high school.
Butler announced Tuesday that as a precautionary measure, the district will keep its schools closed from Nov. 30 through Dec. 4, with in-person classes to resume Dec. 7.
Although health officials are currently recommending against travel to many other states due to the rising number of coronavirus cases around the country, the expectation is that a significant number of people will travel for the holiday, or at least gather together locally with family and potentially spread the virus in small group settings.
On Tuesday, Gov. Tom Wolf and Pennsylvania health secretary Dr. Rachel Levine announced new or updated requirements they said would help stop the spread of the virus before Thanksgiving, however most of the requirements are essentially voluntary.
One of the new requirements is for Pennsylvanians to wear masks inside their own homes if they are around people who aren’t members of their household inside the home, and even to mask up if they’re able to maintain six feet of distance from those individuals.
The updated mask order also specifies that “when outdoors, a mask must be worn if you are not able to remain physically distant (at least six feet away) from someone not in your household the entire time you are outdoors.”
“It is our collective responsibility to protect our communities and our most vulnerable Pennsylvanians from COVID-19 and to continue to work together to get through this pandemic,” Wolf said in a news release. “These targeted mitigation efforts, combined with existing ones, are paramount to saving lives and protecting our economy.”
He added that “the administration will continue to monitor the risks posed by COVID-19 across the commonwealth and will reinstate or institute new targeted mitigation tactics as necessary.” However, Wolf’s administration has repeatedly said that the state won’t return to the use of its color-coded “red, yellow, green” system that determined how businesses could operate and what activities could take place at the county level–and when–based upon the number of cases in those counties.
As of Wednesday, most of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties–including Northampton and Lehigh counties–were reporting substantial community spread of the coronavirus, and the state broke another daily record Tuesday with confirmation of 5,900 new cases during the preceding 24-hour period.
To read Tuesday’s update from the Wolf administration–which also includes a new COVID-19 testing order for travelers and other new or revised protocols, such as the updated mask order–visit the Department of Health website.
Under the new traveler testing order, signed by Levine, anyone visiting Pennsylvania from another state is required to have a negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours prior to entering the state.
Under the traveler order, which takes effect Friday, “if someone cannot get a test or chooses not to, they must quarantine for 14 days upon arrival in Pennsylvania.”
However the order does not apply to commuters or anyone seeking medical treatment.
Butler’s email did not include information about the new state rules, however he did urge families to follow COVID-19 mitigation protocols that were already in place.
“I strongly encourage families and students to exercise all safety precautions including masking and distancing outside of school hours,” Butler wrote. “The health and safety of our students and staff is of the utmost importance.”
The state department of education has recommended that school districts in counties in which substantial community spread of the coronavirus is occurring adopt hybrid or virtual models of learning , hwever Saucon Valley administrators have so far not announced any plans to suspend in-person classes in the district’s schools. Currently, about 80 percent of Saucon Valley students attend class inside their school buildings five days a week, with the remainder studying online at home.
For the latest information on case numbers in Pennsylvania, refer to the Department of Health’s COVID-19 dashboard.
As of Tuesday, there had been 6,874 cases of coronavirus confirmed in Northampton County since the pandemic began in March. In neighboring Lehigh County, there were 8,816 confirmed cases as of Tuesday, and statewide there had been 263,978 cases.
More than 9,300 Pennsylvanians have died from COVID-19 to date, per the department of health.
The case confirmed at Saucon Valley High School Tuesday is the eighth there so far this year.