Newcastle’s Lincoln Academy canceled school on Friday, Sept. 10 after two additional cases of COVID-19 were identified in individuals associated with the school Thursday night—bringing the total to six cases in the first week of school.
“These cases include both adults and students, and both vaccinated and unvaccinated members of the community,” states a letter to the LA community signed by Head of School Jeffrey Burroughs and Director of Health Services Eric Duffy.
LA spokesperson Jenny Mayher said by phone on Friday that after discovering how many close contacts had to be notified when learning of the two new cases Thursday night, the administration decided it was safer to cancel the school day even though buses were already out picking up kids Friday morning.
“It was a last-minute decision but we did it for safety,” Mayher said.
Some of the six cases are associated with the girls’ soccer team, which is suspended from all activities for 10 days.
Because the school had more than three unconnected COVID-19 cases within 14 days, it is considered to be in “outbreak status” by the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
LA plans to return students to school, except for those unvaccinated individuals considered close contacts. They will have to isolate for 10 days from the date of exposure, starting on Monday, Sept. 13.
Mayher said that vaccinated individuals who are close contacts do not have to isolate, per the Maine CDC, but will be notified so they can monitor for symptoms.
Because the school is in outbreak status, the Maine CDC requires all unvaccinated students who are in a classroom with someone with a positive case of COVID-19 to quarantine, whether or not they are considered a close contact.
A close contact is defined by the Maine CDC as someone who is within six feet of an individual with a positive case of COVID-19 for 15 minutes or longer, with or without a face covering.
The school plans to enhance some COVID-19 protocols starting next week, as well, according to the letter.
LA will move from three lunch periods to four to spread out students more during lunch and ask students to replace masks as soon as they are done eating. Desks will be reconfigured to add more space to classrooms and masks will be encouraged outdoors.
The letter states that these measures are in addition to universal masking indoors and on buses, seating charts in every class, and other measures.
Mayher said that no additional rules will be placed on athletics.
LA plans to return students to school, minus unvaccinated individuals considered close contacts, on Monday, Sept. 13. Unvaccinated close contacts of the positive cases will be asked to isolate for 10 days from the date of potential exposure.
The letter urges families to seek guidance from their physician and consider getting vaccinated, encourage students not to gather in groups indoors and unmasked, make sure masks are “well-fitting,” and talk to students about keeping physical distance from others whenever possible.
“This pandemic is not over. The delta variant is two to three times more transmissible than the original strain of COVID-19,” the letter states.
“While both Lincoln Academy and Lincoln County as a whole have seen breakthrough cases in vaccinated individuals, those cases are still less severe than in unvaccinated people, and rarely require hospitalization. Vaccinated individuals also transmit the virus at much lower rates than unvaccinated individuals who are infected with COVID-19.”