Editor’s note: This is the first in a series of stories examining how local school districts are handling instruction in the era of COVID-19. The second story will appear in next week’s edition.

Massac Unit 1 reported its first two cases of positive COVID-19 tests last week.

In a letter to parents dated Thursday, Sept. 10, Supt. Jason Hayes reported those involved were two staff members who work at Unity Elementary School.

During an interview Tuesday, Hayes said Unity and the district were lucky with their first diagnoses.

“Both individuals tested over Labor Day weekend or the day after, which helped us out quite a bit. It was a natural break — we don’t have students on Friday with this schedule, so we had a four-day window there between staff and students (not interacting),” Hayes said.

Hayes worked with the Southern Seven Health Department on doing contract tracing on the staff members, which “was very helpful.” He noted while the individuals work together, they also have common activities outside of school.

“We’re not certain that they infected each other at school, but we treated it as if they had. The room they used a modular building so that helped out a lot too. We hadn’t started our services where they would be working with students directly yet,” Hayes said.

“If you’re closer that 6 feet from someone for longer that 15 minutes, that’s the determining factor. That’s why we didn’t have to quarantine anyone else. No (additional) students or staff had to be quarantined (from this incident). The way the weekend fell, we didn’t have to shut the school down because it’s naturally shut down for the required amount of time. We did disinfect it, which we’re doing nightly to the whole building.

“There were just a lot of lucky factors.”

Quarantine for both individuals should end this week.

Hayes noted while this is Unit 1’s first positive COVID occurrence, several students and staff members have been quarantine because of possible exposure outside the school.

“I’m sure we’re going to have other positive tests. it’s been rotating throughout the schools — one have quarantine then when that’s up hit another; it hasn’t hit one school all at once yet.”

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