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Bristol Virginia School Board increases virus mitigation efforts

Bristol Virginia School Board increases virus mitigation efforts

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BRISTOL, Va. — A COVID-19 outbreak in the Virginia High School football program was confirmed Monday, just as the school division increases mitigation efforts to reduce the impact of the virus.

Three people within the program have tested positive for the virus within the last two weeks, which meets the Virginia Department of Health definition for an outbreak, Superintendent Keith Perrigan told the School Board at its Monday meeting.

“We will have to quarantine within our football program and probably make some schedule changes,” Perrigan said.

As of Monday, the entire division has 10 active student cases and two active staff cases. Since school began, the division has reported 32 student cases and two staff cases.

While the current case count is lower than many other area systems, starting today Bristol, Virginia is enacting additional mitigation efforts. Those include:

» Resume temperature checks and screenings in car rider lines and for bus riders upon arriving at school.

» Encourage staff to open windows in classes as appropriate.

» Allow visitors by appointment only with screening questions and temperature checks. Visitors will be asked if they are vaccinated, and vaccine status will determine the amount of access they receive.

» Approve overtime for additional deep cleaning overnight and on weekends.

» Increase rapid testing opportunities for students and staff.

The division already requires all students, staff and visitors to wear masks throughout the day and has other mitigation measures in place.

“We’re seeing our region’s numbers go up dramatically. And we’ve seen a trend from other parts of Virginia start to trickle down to Southwest Virginia where classes, schools or grade levels are going virtual,” Perrigan said. “That is our worst nightmare for that to happen to us. We’re adding these mitigations trying to make our schools a safer environment.”

Every locality in Southwest Virginia — and most of the state — is classified with a “high” level of COVID-19 transmission, according to the Virginia Department of Health. A total of 80 new cases were diagnosed in the city during the past seven days, compared to 52 during the prior week.

Last week in the city of Bristol, 16.4% of all COVID tests were positive. Neighboring Washington County was at 20%, and Scott County was 19.7%. The positivity rate across all of Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia was 20.1% Monday, according to Ballad Health.

“Anything we can do to offer in-person learning and teaching, we want to do. Our students need it; our teachers need it,” Perrigan said.

During its meeting, the board unanimously approved a memorandum of understanding with Southwest Virginia Community Health System to establish an urgent care clinic in Virginia High School. It would treat students and staff and be similar to the system’s urgent care clinic inside Van Pelt Elementary.

“We hope to have it open by December. We have started construction on the space, and that is about complete. They will start looking to get those things staffed,” Perrigan said.

The new urgent care clinic will be staffed by either a doctor or nurse practitioner and a nurse, Perrigan told the board in response to a question. The clinic at Van Pelt Elementary is staffed by a nurse practitioner and a nurse.

“The urgent care part is huge, in and of itself. You’ve got instant access for any student and our staff in your building, in an affordable way. We think this clinic will mostly serve our middle and high school students, since the middle school is so close,” Perrigan said.

He said the Van Pelt clinic was “invaluable” last year by performing rapid COVID testing.

Plans also include installing telehealth capabilities within the four other school buildings, so students and staff there could be treated remotely.

The services are provided at no cost to the school division and the clinic will bill insurance or Medicaid or offer a sliding fee scale for families without coverage, Perrigan said. | 276-645-2532 | Twitter: @DMcGeeBHC |

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