MONROE — The spread of COVID-19 among young people continues to have an impact on the greater community in Green County, including an outbreak at an assisted living facility.
Monroe High School is going virtual through at least Oct. 2 after over a dozen students tested positive. The School District of Monroe announced the closure Sept. 18.
As of Sept. 21, 14 Monroe High School students had tested positive and another 15 were in quarantine as a precaution.
Four district staff members had tested positive, including one at the middle school and two at the high school. One of the four was recovered. Another eight high school staff members and six middle school staff members are in quarantine.
Rick Waski, district administrator, said the number of staff in quarantine made it difficult to continue face-to-face operations of the high school.
“We know that there will be many high school students deeply disappointed. However, we know that the numbers will only grow at the high school, and in the community, if we do not make this adjustment to our operational plan at this time,” he wrote in an email to parents.
The school district evaluates its plan for the next two weeks every Thursday, so Waski expects a decision later this week for the week of Oct. 5.
The middle and elementary schools are continuing in a hybrid model of online and in-person learning. As of Sept. 21, 16 Monroe Middle School students were in quarantine. Also in quarantine were 10 students at Parkside Elementary, eight students at Northside Elementary and five students at Abraham Lincoln Elementary.
Waski said administrators have asked teachers to share COVID-19 safety information with their students.
“Unfortunately, adolescents are impulsive and sometimes they feel that they’re not going to be affected by COVID,” he said. But, “it’s not just about their health, it’s about the health of the community.”
Education “to really drive home the importance of safety practices during the COVID-19 pandemic” is going to be a continued topic of discussion among school leaders, he said.
Meanwhile, residents at an assisted living facility in Green County have tested positive for COVID-19, and the outbreak is directly tied to an outbreak among young people who attended a party over the last weekend in August.
Spread from the party has infected over 30 people and caused Brodhead High School to switch to online learning through at least Sept. 25.
RoAnn Warden, director of Green County Public Health, declined to name the assisted living facility with the outbreak but said the facility is “working with us quite well and is following our guidance.”
Large gatherings in general are the source for the rapid rise in infections over the past week, Warden said. As of Sept. 21 — nearly six months to the day since Green County reported its first COVID-19 case — the county has 446 total confirmed cases, with 84 active.
Young adults attending parties may have mild or no symptoms, so “they go to work, they go to school, they visit grandma and grandpa’s” and infect others.
COVID-19 spread into vulnerable populations like those living in assisted living facilities is “what I lose sleep about the most,” Warden said.
Over 12% of those tested for COVID-19 in the past two weeks have come back positive, a rate she calls “very alarming.”
“It shows the virus is spreading rampantly in our community,” Warden said. She urges the community to stay at home or within a household unit, keep a distance and wear a mask when in public and get tested even if feeling the slightest of symptoms.
These safety practices are crucial “if we’re going to get a handle on this significant increase that we’ve seen not only in Green County but in the state.”
Free drive-through nasal swab COVID-19 testing is offered by appointment 2 to 6 p.m. Wednesdays and 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Thursdays in Monroe at the National Guard Armory, 1130 30th St. It’s also offered alternating Mondays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. in New Glarus and Brodhead.
To sign up and make an appointment, go to gcpublichealth.org and click on the red testing banner.