U.K COVID-19 Variant Reported Within Reading

Reading, MA — On March 28, Kristine Harris, Public Health Nurse for the town of Reading, was informed by Dr. Catherine Brown from the Department of Public Health that the U.K variant B.1.1.7 was found within the town of Reading. Superintendent Dr. John Doherty recently reported this and other news in his March 28 Pathways blog post to students and staff within the Reading Public Schools system.

“It is critically important that we all continue all of the Covid preventive measures (distancing and masking) so as to prevent these variants, or any other mutations, from taking hold and creating their own outbreaks. Variant B117 seems to be covered by vaccines, but Variants B1135 and P1 are not. And all three are present in MA,” stated Doherty in the blog post. 

Doherty went on to state mitigation steps that staff and students can take in order to slow the spread of COVID-19 through the RPS population. Such mitigation steps include wearing masks while within RPS facilities and opening the windows and doors of classrooms as the weather gets warmer in order to help increase airflow.

“The only time that staff are allowed to not wear masks is when they are alone in their classroom, at lunch with proper physical distancing, or office setting or on a mask break outside. Students can have their masks off at lunch (with proper physical distancing) or outside on a mask break,” stated Doherty on the topic of masks. 

There were 12 cases of COVID-19 reported within the RPS population this past week, three of which were identified through pooled testing at Birch Meadow, RISE, and RISE/RMHS. 

“Here are the positive results of our pooled testing on Monday:

  • One positive pool at Birch Meadow, reflex testing identified individual. One staff and fourteen students quarantined (three of the students rode a bus with the student).
  • One positive pool at RISE. One was the class of the sibling of the Birch Meadow student. that student was symptomatic and presumed positive, all others in the pool antigen tested negative. 2 staff and 12 students were quarantined.
  • One positive pool RMHS/RISE, positive individual (district staff) identified. One staff quarantined,” stated Doherty. 

The total caseload reported at RPS this week included three RMHS students, one Parker student, two Coolidge students, two Birch Meadow students, one Barrows student, two RISE students, one Wood End student. One of the positive Birch Meadow students is a sibling of one of the positive RISE students. 

Due to the above cases, 53 students across Birch Meadow, RISE, and Coolidge Middle School and five staff members were asked to quarantine. 

There have been 44 reported cases of COVID-19 affecting students and staff at RPS within the month of March. 

Doherty stated that Reading Public Schools is continuing to move towards the return of full in-person schooling, starting with elementary students on April 5. Middle and high school students should plan to return to full in-person schooling on April 26. 

“The Reading Public Schools has been busily preparing for our return to full in-person learning. We are on track to a full return for all of our students. […] Building principals will be providing more information in their newsletters,” stated Doherty.  

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