Washington high school closed over coronavirus concerns after staff member's relative is tested for virus

A high school in Washington State canceled classes and was closed on Thursday after a staff member reported that a family member who had traveled with them internationally became sick and was being quarantined and tested for the novel coronavirus. In a letter sent to Bothell High School families, Superintendent Michelle Reid said that the staff member was also being quarantined at home for 14 days.

“At this time, there is no confirmation that the family member’s illness is connected to the coronavirus outbreak, but out of an abundance of caution, the family member is being tested,” the letter said. “Our initial understanding was that we would learn the test results in one day. However, during my conversation with the Washington State Department of Health Epidemiologist Scott Lindquist M.D., and representatives of Public Health Seattle & King County, I was told that the test results may take 5-7 days.”

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Reid said she has requested that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provide more rapid results for COVID-19. Health officials have indicated that they believe the risk to students and staff remains minimal, and that “they do not believe the current situation warrants closing Bothell High School."

“However, as we await the aforementioned test results, it is out of an abundance of caution that I have decided that Bothell High School will be closed tomorrow, Thursday, February 27,” Reid’s letter said. “While today, our support services staff have been taking initial steps to disinfect areas where the staff member traveled on the campus, we need more time to fully and completely disinfect the entire school as a preventive measure.”

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Reid also said that officials are in the process of contacting families of students and staff or visitors that the staff member came into contact with on Monday out of an abundance of caution.

“In these unusual circumstances as the national picture continues to evolve – and with the strong presence of social media – I know it is easy to being speculating and questioning,” she said. “I ask for your patience and your respectful grace for our staff member, their family, and our school community.”

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Washington has had one confirmed cases of coronavirus, which also marked the first case in the U.S. The Seattle man, who is in his 30s, had recently traveled to China and fell ill upon returning to the U.S., where he contacted health officials and was treated at Providence Regional Medical Center – Everett. He was later released to his home to continue recovering.

The U.S. has had 15 total cases of the novel coronavirus, not including dozens of others which were confirmed in patients who were stuck on the Diamond Princess cruise ship in Japan before being evacuated. The virus has infected 83,000 worldwide and killed over 2,800 people.