Superintendent Dr. Mark Lineburg confirmed on Thursday morning that four central office employees with Halifax County Public Schools have tested positive for COVID-19.
He explained that he was notified late last week of one employee who had showed symptoms of COVID-19, and they began notifying county officials, health officials, employees and others.
While working with head nurse Tina Slabach and the Virginia Department of Health, the superintendent came to the decision to postpone the Halifax County School Board meeting originally scheduled for Thursday to Oct. 26 and on Wednesday, directed all central office staff to work from home.
“We’ve tried to handle everything the right way,” he said.
The Centers for Disease Control recommends that people with COVID-19 should be isolated for at least 10 days after symptom onset and until 24 hours after their fever subsides without the use of fever-reducing medications, according to its updated isolation guidance issued in August.
The CDC and the Virginia Department of Health recommends staying at least six feet from others, wearing a mask that covers the nose and mouth and hygiene and sanitation practices to slow the spread of COVID-19.
“We’ve tried to mitigate it the best we can,” Lineburg said. “I wish everyone would take universal precautions so that we can get our kids back in school.”
Other employees in Halifax County Public Schools also have tested positive for COVID-19 since their return to school or have been quarantined due to contact tracing.
At the Sept. 28 Halifax County School Board meeting, Slabach told those attending that five employees had tested positive since Aug. 14 and 11 had quarantined due to contacts.
“Everyone expected this to be a bumpy road,” said Lineburg. He said it would be “naive” of them to think they wouldn’t have an outbreak.
The VDH considers an outbreak as two or more lab confirmed cases of COVID-19.
Before this incident at central office, the superintendent said no other facility had experienced an outbreak.
When speaking of the origins of the outbreak, Lineburg said, “I don’t think you ever truly know.”
He continued saying, “How do you truly know where it starts or ends.”
A limited number of students have been in Halifax County Public School buildings since Oct. 7, and the superintendent said the central officer personnel had no direct link to students.
Had the school board met on Thursday, they were set to continue conversation of their return to school plan that allows for groups of students to return incrementally.
This outbreak does push that plan back, according to Lineburg, and he said the board is doing the best they can as they weight these difficult decisions.
“As always, the safety of our students, families, employees and the broader community is our number one priority,” Lineburg concluded.