Loudoun Co. targets COVID-19 spread ahead of more students returning to classrooms

When Loudoun County, Virginia, students who chose hybrid in-person learning return to public school classrooms on Dec. 1, county Health Director David Goodfriend expects the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases to rise.

He said his goal is to prevent spread of the coronavirus within Loudoun County Public Schools.

Goodfriend, and the school system’s COVID-19 dashboard of confirmed cases and quarantine data show isolated cases of students or staff members contracting coronavirus throughout the county.

“We do expect, on occasion that we will get positive cases in the school. What we really hope to avoid is disease transmission within the school, so we don’t have outbreaks,” Goodfriend told WTOP.

He said outbreaks have been prevented within individual public schools, because contact tracing has shown that affected students and staff had largely been following COVID-19 mitigation strategies.

“Some of our private schools we’ve had concerns where there have been outbreaks and we’ve looked closer, the mitigation strategies are not being followed. We did have one school where they were not maintaining six-foot distancing and mask usage.”

As positive cases have almost doubled in the past several weeks throughout the national capital region, Goodfriend said: “As there’s more prevalence in the community, we would expect to find more cases showing up in the school system.”

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After starting the school year with 100% distance learning, Loudoun County schools brought roughly 7,000 kindergartners, first-graders and second-graders to classrooms two days a week, on Oct. 27.

Three elementary school grade levels and senior academy students will return to classrooms on the first day of December.

“The third through fifth graders is going to double the capacity in elementary schools,” said Goodfriend. “And that puts more strain on the system.”

He said public health contact tracers, working with school officials, have felt confident that the current classroom configuration that maintains six feet of distance between students is working to prevent spread.

“We follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s guidelines for close contacts. A close contact is defined as someone who spent at least 15 minutes over a 24 hour period, within six feet of someone who is presumed infectious,” Goodfriend said.

Goodfriend said he believes the current protocols will limit spread within the public school system: “We would encourage parents, if you’re sending your children to a private school or preschool to engage the administrators, to make sure they are maintaining six-foot distance, and that staff are wearing masks, so that we don’t have outbreaks within those facilities, as well.”

Neal Augenstein

Neal Augenstein has been a reporter at WTOP since 1997. Through the years, Neal has covered many of the crimes and trials that have gripped the region. Neal's been pleased to receive awards over the years for hard news, feature reporting, use of sound and sports.

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