Omicron surge leaves 100+ students & staff quarantined

Published 3:41 pm Friday, January 14, 2022

RESERVE — The Omicron variant is running rampant in the community, leading to an increase in quarantined students and staff across all St. John the Baptist Parish Public School sites.

Director of Special Education Dr. Stacey Spies reported updated COVID-19 data for the district during the January 13 School Board meeting.

During the week of January 3-7, 46 scholars and 29 staff members tested positive for COVID-19. There were an additional 37 suspected cases based on cold-like symptoms.

A total of 183 individuals were quarantined between January 3 and January 7, whether due to a positive case, suspected case, or close contact with an individual who tested positive. LaPlace Elementary had the most impact from COVID-19 during this week, with 17 scholars and four staff members testing positive, 24 suspected cases and 50 quarantined.

COVID-19 data for the previous week is being uploaded each Monday on the District’s case tracker, which can be viewed at www.stjohn.k12.la.us/apps/pages/casetracker.

While data for the week of January 10-14 will be uploaded on Monday, January 17, Spies shared preliminary updates during Thursday’s School Board meeting. Between Monday, January 10 and Wednesday, January 12, 41 scholars and 13 staff tested positive for COVID-19. There were seven suspected cases, and 118 individuals were quarantined across the school district during this three-day period.

“Our best defense is to continue to sanitize and continue to clean our schools. We are encouraging everyone to wear a multi-layered mask,” Spies said.

Deep cleaning is taking place regularly, and all buildings are fogged once a week.

Superintendent Dr. Lynett Hookfin said the recent spike in cases calls for more vigorous sanitizing of school sites.

“We are moving into a phase to have every building fogged every day,” Hookfin said.

Recently updated guidelines from the CDC have reduced the isolation time for individuals who test positive or come in close contact with an infected person from 10 days to five days.

“This change has significantly reduced the number of days that staff and students are out of school,” Spies said.

However, individuals who continue to show symptoms after the five-day isolation period will need to stay home longer. A negative COVID-19 test is not required to return to school/work. For those who prefer to test, Spies recommends using a rapid antigen test to determine whether the virus is still active. She noted that the PCR tests may show positive long after an individual is no longer contagious.

The CDC has also changed its definition of “adequately vaccinated.” Those who received their two-dose vaccine series more than six months ago or the Johnson & Johnson single-dose vaccine more than two months ago are no longer considered adequately vaccinated unless they have received a COVID-19 booster shot.

Spies said St. John Parish Schools has not compiled data on the vaccination status of staff because it would be a privacy issue. However, school administration has offered opportunities for vaccination and booster shots.

Spies said a booster clinic held Thursday delivered underwhelming results, with only 13 staff members showing up to receive the shot.

St. John Parish Schools are also monitoring the status of a vaccine mandate for Head Start employees. The mandate is not currently being enforced in Louisiana due to a preliminary injunction.