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Free COVID-19 testing held at Omro High School after spike in cases

Published: Feb. 18, 2021 at 4:42 PM CST
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OMRO, Wis. (WBAY) - Omro High School students have been learning from home this week after a spike in COVID-19 cases. Free testing was held at the school Thursday to help get the community back on track.

ThedaCare brought its mobile test-site to the high school, offering 300 to 400 free COVID-19 tests.

“We thought we could offer up some testing for not only students and staff but also community members. So, I’m glad to see people are taking advantage of it,” said Superintendent Dr. Jay Jones. “So far it’s gone really smoothly. There was a small line of cars right away at 10 a.m. when we opened up, but it’s been just nice and nice and steady since then.”

Jones says the cases were noticed among high school students in particular, which led the district to switch those grades to virtual learning for the week.

The Winnebago County Health Department says the district reported 12 new student cases, 20 total cases and many more potential contacts.

“We’re seeing spread between students, seeing spread between families of students. That is a big concern in terms of being a threat to the community,” said County Health Officer and Director Doug Gieryn. “The number of contacts identified is now - I think it just passed 180.”

Gieryn says some of these cases were traced to students gathering outside school hours, extracurriculars like sports, and other community activities.

“These types of events, which often include some sort of, you know, social functions with them that are part of that team environment do present a lot of risk for transmission of disease,” said Gieryn.

He believes the spread is also result of cases not identified early.

“We know this disease is spread more by persons that don’t have symptoms than do,” said Gieryn. “Especially in the younger age group that may be less symptomatic, it’s very easy for them to pass on disease and not even know it.”

“Just a good reminder that, you know, even if those symptoms are more on the mild side go and get your child tested,” said Jones. “Or, if you have those symptoms yourself, go and get yourself tested as well. And we’re trying to, through the testing piece here, make those as easy as possible to get.”

Up to this point, Jones says the district had been able to stay completely open.

“It is a little disappointing but, nonetheless, we knew this might happen,” said Jones. “Hopefully through some more testing and people making really good decisions that we’ll be able to open right back up and continue are as we were.”

“We really want to be sure that the community knows that there’s still significant risk of transmission of COVID-19,” said Gieryn. “Even though things are much better than they have been, you know, you still have hospitalizations, we still have cases every day occurring.”

The hope by both the district and health department, is that the community will take this setback serves as a reminder to stay vigilant.

“We’re not out of the woods yet,” said Jones. “Just be smart and follow those mitigation strategies we’ve all been talking about and hopefully we’ll be able to get vaccines in those arms soon and get back to a sense of normal.”

“It’s going to be a few more months, don’t let your guard down and just keep going with the social distancing, and masking, and avoiding those group gatherings for a few more months,” said Gieryn. “Things will get better.”

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