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Athens Superintendent: Health and safety plan keeping students in classrooms

ATHENS — Athens Superintendent Craig Stage credited the school district’s health and safety plan as the main reason why students are still learning inside their classrooms despite a positive COVID-19 test being reported among the student body at Athens Area High School.

The school district was informed on Tuesday that a student at the high school had tested positive for the coronavirus.

While other school districts have moved to virtual learning after positive tests, there is no plan on changing the instruction models or extra-curricular activities at Athens as of right now, according to Stage.

“In our high school classrooms, we have the ability to create six feet of distance (in some classrooms), we wear masks and we have protective barriers, so that greatly decreases the amount of contact tracing that we ever need to do even though we are moving classes throughout the day,” Stage told the Morning Times on Wednesday evening. “Our health and safety plan has been critical to our success.”

Stage announced the positive test on the school district’s app and social media platforms on Tuesday.

“The intent of this communication is to notify our school community that we were informed today, October 6, of a COVID-19 positive case within our Wildcat family. A student at (Athens Area High School) has tested positive for COVID-19,” Stage said.

According to the press release, the student and family are “following all protocols and have been quarantining since last Thursday, October 1.”

Stage noted in the press release that the district was working with the Pennsylvania Department of Health to deal with the positive case and any contact tracing that needed to be done.

“In working with the (Pennsylvania) Department of Health there is no need to change learning models at this time because of the many safety protocols implemented as well as the steps taken by the students’ family to ensure everyone’s good health and safety,” Stage said. “If there is a need for contact tracing, individuals will be contacted by the Department of Health.”

Bradford County has seen an increase of 136 new cases of COVID-19 since Sept. 20. According to the most recent report from the State Department of Health, Bradford County is currently up to 246 confirmed cases of the virus dating back to March. There are also 28 probable cases in the county.

Stage acknowledged in Tuesday’s press release that the increase in the number of cases of COVID-19 in Bradford County has raised the level of “concern and anxiety” in the school community.

“We know that within our community we are seeing an increase in COVID-19 cases and that has caused an increase in concern and anxiety. We want to thank parents/caregivers for constantly communicating any concerns they may have with sending their children to school,” Stage said. “We also want to thank you for keeping us updated on potential exposures to COVID-19 or when tests have been conducted. This collaboration has allowed us to conservatively and cautiously approach the COVID-19 pandemic. We are committed to keeping our school doors open and our students, faculty and staff as safe as possible.”

Stage stressed the importance of abiding by health and safety measures.

“The increased number of COVID-19 cases within Bradford County are not happening in our schools, but within our communities,” Stage said.

“This is a stark reminder that we need to continue to be diligent in our health and safety measures. The pre-screening process is working. Please continue to take your child’s temperature and review the symptoms chart with him or her every morning prior to school. Please wear a face covering when in public and in areas that you cannot physically distance yourself from each other. Please wash your hands often, and when you cannot wash your hands please use hand sanitizer.”

Epiphany School celebrated the Feast of Saint Francis with the Blessing of the Animals on Friday, October 2. This year was not like any other year. Students could not bring their four legged or feathered friends or invite their families and friends because of COVID-19. Instead, they brought their favorite stuffed animals. They also brought money to donate to Saint Francis Kitchen in Scranton which feeds the needy every day. Pictured alongside Father Andrew S. Hvozdovic is one of Epiphany School’s first graders dressed as Saint Francis. He collected $600 to send to Saint Francis Kitchen.

South Waverly cancels trick-or-treating

SOUTH WAVERLY — With the number of COVID-19 cases on the rise in Bradford County, officials in South Waverly have decided to cancel trick-or-treating for this year.

On Tuesday, South Waverly Mayor Tim Hickey announced that he will not authorize trick-or-treating in the borough this year due to the increasing number of COVID-19 cases in the area and in consideration of the latest guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“After lengthy discussions with borough council, they wish to keep the borough residents and children safe,” Hickey said.

The CDC warns that traditional Halloween activities, such as trick-or-treating and trunk-or-treat events, can pose a high risk for spreading COVID-19, and officials said there is a moderate risk if kids do “one-way trick-or-treating,” or grab wrapped goodie bags that are left out.

Instead, the CDC suggests a variety of lower risk Halloween activities, which include pumpkin and home decorating with members of the household, in-home and outdoor scavenger hunts, a virtual costume contest, or a Halloween movie night with family.

The CDC added that anyone who may have COVID-19 should not participate any in-person Halloween activities or give out candy.

Bradford County reports new COVID-related death

HARRISBURG — The Pennsylvania Department of Health reported Wednesday that another Bradford County resident had passed away due to complications from COVID-19.

Bradford County, which also reported two deaths last week, has now lost six residents to the coronavirus, according to the Department of Health.

The county continued to see a big spike in COVID-19 cases on Wednesday as the state reported 11 new confirmed cases.

Bradford County has seen an increase of 136 cases since Sept. 20. There are also currently 28 “probable” cases of the virus listed on the Department of Health’s website.

Since March, Bradford County has seen 246 individuals contract the virus.

The Sayre ZIP code (18840) has reported the most COVID cases in the county with 60. Athens has seen 15 confirmed cases, while Gillett is up to 19, Columbia Cross Roads has 16 cases and Ulster is at 13.

Other towns in Bradford County with confirmed cases include:

  • Milan — 5
  • Rome — 6
  • Towanda — 24
  • Troy — 31
  • Canton — 30
  • Wyalusing — 7

The Department of Health redacts the number of cases in ZIP Codes reporting less than five cases, and does not report recoveries.

Chemung County adds 55 COVID cases

ELMIRA — The number of cases of COVID-19 in Chemung County continued to rise on Wednesday as the county announced 55 new cases of the virus.

The county has now had 644 confirmed cases of COVID-19. There have also been seven deaths related to the virus.

There have been 477 recoveries in the county, which currently has 160 active cases.

The county also reported that there are currently seven individuals hospitalized as they fight the virus.

In Tioga County, there were nine new cases of COVID-19 reported on Wednesday.

The county now has seen 311 individuals affected by the coronavirus.

There have been 217 recoveries and there are 67 active cases in Tioga County.

The coronavirus has also been linked to 27 deaths in Tioga County.

The county also reported that 438 individuals are currently in mandatory quarantine.