BATH — Fisher-Mitchell School and Morse High School shifted to remote instruction after the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention identified COVID-19 outbreaks in both schools.

“An outbreak means that there are three or more cases of COVID-19 within a 14-day period,” RSU 1 Superintendent Patrick Manuel wrote in a letter to families Sunday. “While these are not epidemiologically linked, based on recommendations from the Maine CDC, we are cleaning the school/classrooms and closing these two schools for 10 days.”

The schools are scheduled to return to in-person learning on Tuesday, Jan. 19, according to Manuel. RSU 1 serves Bath, Phippsburg, Arrowsic and Woolwich.

Woolwich Central School was also forced to move to full online learning, though no outbreak investigation was opened in the school, after “an individual” within the school tested positive for COVID-19, Manuel wrote.

“While Woolwich is not considered on outbreak status, there are significant coverage needs due to staff and student close contact quarantining,” Manuel wrote. “We are currently unable to secure enough substitutes to cover these classes for this length of time. Given our already known substitute shortage during these difficult times, Woolwich Central School will also have to move to fully remote learning for the week of January 11-15th, with a return to in-person learning on Tuesday, January 19th.”

According to a separate letter Manuel sent to families, “an adult associated with” Fisher-Mitchell School tested positive for COVID-19 last Friday. The following day, “an adult associated with” Morse High School received a preliminary positive COVID-19 test result. Manuel said close contacts will be notified.

Another Morse High School student and a preschool student in the Bath Tech program tested positive for COVID-19 last Monday, but neither were in school while they were contagious.

Fisher-Mitchell School was scheduled to open for full in-person learning on Monday, as approved by the school board last month.

Dike-Newell School, however, will open for full in-person instruction Monday, following the leads of Phippsburg Elementary School and Woolwich Central School, which returned to full-time in-person learning on Oct. 27 and Dec. 7, respectively. Both Fisher-Mitchell and Dike-Newell have been following a pert-time in-person and online learning plan.

Dr. Amina Hanna, a pediatrician at Mid Coast Hospital who has been guiding RSU 1 through the reopening process, acknowledged the rising cases within Sagadahoc County when reviewing RSU 1’s COVID-19 policies with the school board last Thursday.

“Two weeks ago we were at a 4.1% positivity rate for the prior two weeks and now we’re at 5.6%, so definitely a change,” said Hanna. “I don’t think it’s surprising given our recent holidays and the bump you expect to see with people getting together.”

In Sagadahoc County, 506 people have tested positive for COVID-19 and 1 has died as of Sunday, according to the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

Despite the growing number of local COVID-19 cases, Hanna said children who test positive for COVID-19 usually catch it from a parent rather than from another child.

“It’s not so much transmission from child-to-child happening within a classroom,” said Hanna. “They have a parent who goes to work, contracts it, and then they’re sick and they’re around their children and they spread it that way.”

Other schools in neighboring districts have seen a handful of positive COVID-19 cases in the last week.

In Maine School Administrative District 75, covering Topsham, Bowdoin, Bowdoinham and Harpswell, one student “associated with” Mt. Ararat High School tested positive for COVID-19 last Thursday. The next day, the district announced a third grader “associated with” Woodside Elementary School tested positive.

Brunswick High School reported four students tested positive last Monday and “someone from the Brunswick Junior High School community” tested positive last Thursday, according to the Brunswick School Department website.

In RSU 5, which serves Freeport, Pownal and Durham, a Freeport High School staff member, Freeport High School student and a Durham Central School student all tested positive last week, according to the district’s website.

Becky Foley, RSU5 superintendent, told The Times Record she’s “not nervous about having students in school” amid the district’s recent COVID-19 cases.

“In the midst of the COVID surge, I believe that one of the safest places our students can be is in school,” said Foley. “The preventative measures of hand washing, wearing masks, and physically distancing have become routine. There is little evidence of in school transmission which tells me that our schools are safe.”

Mid Coast Hospital in Brunswick is treating six patients for COVID-19, including one in the Intensive Care Unit, according to Judy Kelsh, Mid Coast Hospital spokesperson. The hospital has treated 71 patients for COVID-19 since March.

Kelsh said the hospital “continues to be concerned with the significant increase in community spread of COVID-19 and climbing hospitalizations throughout the state, yet Mid Coast Hospital remains prepared to care for our patients who need us.”

“Maine is seeing new cases from all counties, almost every day, and the number of patients in Maine hospitals due to COVID-19 is now more than double the number than the surge last spring,” Kelsh said. “With the start of COVID-19 vaccinations, we are hopeful that there is an end to this pandemic in sight, but right now it is essential that individuals do their best to stay healthy and prevent the spread of this virus by wearing a mask in public, washing their hands often, and keeping socially distant from others.”

So far this month, Mid Coast Hospital has tested 1,160 people, 74 of whom tested positive for COVID-19 as of Friday. Since March, the hospital has tested 23,611 people, yielding 460 positive tests.

Statewide, 29,298 Mainers have tested positive for COVID-19 since March, according to the Maine CDC, and 432 have died as of Sunday.


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