Washington state schools report 37 employee COVID-19 cases

Mead school district Classroom

TRI-CITIES, Wash. (AP) — About 40 employees in three school districts in Washington state have tested positive for COVID-19 since the school year began in August.

The Kennewick School District was the only one to publicly report how many staff members have tested positive for COVID-19 and where they work, the Tri-City Herald reported. The other two districts, Pasco and Richland, released updated confirmed case figures on Tuesday.

District officials say Kennewick had reported 14 employees and one student tested positive for the virus, Pasco had 17 staff members test positive and Richland had six staff members test positive.

The Pasco and Richland districts are still teaching nearly all students remotely and have yet to decide when students should return to in-person classes.

Pasco Public Affairs Director Shane Edinger said district officials have cleaned the work areas and other parts of the school the sick employees visited. He also said the district is continuing to evaluate options for posting regular updates on employee cases.

Richland Communication Director Ty Beaver said the employees who tested positive were not working in the district’s buildings and had no contact with other staff or students. He added that the district is planning to create an online dashboard to list the number of sick staff members and where they were working.

In Kennewick, about 250 additional students started in-person classes this week, including preschoolers. Students in K-5 are expected to return next week on staggered schedules, officials said.

The number of infections is thought to be far higher because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected with the virus without feeling sick.

For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some — especially older adults and people with existing health problems — it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death.

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