By Marcy Stamper
Although new COVID cases in Okanogan County remain low, the number of infections has increased in the past week, with 35 cases reported, six in the Methow Valley. The two-week infection rate per 100,000 population went up to 119, from 94 last week.
About 20 students and school employees are in quarantine after voluntary student testing for COVID following the mid-winter break turned up two positive cases at Methow Valley Elementary School. Another two cases were reported at Liberty Bell High School, but not from school testing, school nurse Adriana Vanbianchi said.
The positive results were initially detected on Feb. 24 in two batches of pooled tests, which combine up to 10 samples each. Working with Okanogan County Public Health officials and local clinics, school staff helped families in those groups obtain individual tests to confirm the results. Two individual tests came back positive on Feb. 27, Vanbianchi said. All other students in those two batches tested negative.
All students in those two batches of tests were directed to quarantine as soon as the school got the pooled results, Vanbianchi said.
The school tests are done separately for two student cohorts who attend classes on different days of the week. All test results were negative for the other cohort.
Methow Valley Elementary Principal Paul Gutzler notified all school families on Sunday (Feb. 28).
Staff followed the schools’ COVID-19 protocols and worked with families, clinics and public health officials to conduct further testing and notifications, if necessary.
This is the first time student testing has turned up positive results, although there have been COVID cases among students, Vanbianchi said. The source of the infections has not been determined, but case investigations haven’t linked transmission to the school, she said. The infected students had either no symptoms or very mild symptoms, Vanbianchi said.