School district reports first COVID-19 case at SoHi

Sep 23, 2020

The Kenai Peninsula Borough School District has seen its first case of COVID-19. Director of Communications Pegge Erkeneff said the case is at Soldotna High School and the school became aware of it midday Tuesday. She didn’t specify whether the case was a student or staff member. The school will remain open, in accordance with its mitigation plans.

The district is not releasing more information about the case’s identity, in compliance with privacy regulations, but close contacts of the case have been notified. This could include players on an athletic team, a colleague or a bus driver, for example. All close contacts must quarantine at home for 14 days.

School Principal Tony Graham sent a letter to staff and families notifying them of the case.

“We've been asking families and staff if anybody tests positive that’s related to a school to please call Nurse Iris [Wertz] or the school nurse or the school principal, and that’s exactly what happened,” Erkeneff said. “So we were able to start contact tracing immediately.

Erkeneff said it would be helpful if close contacts get tested, since a negative test would show that that person was not spreading the virus while they were at school. Even if they do test negative, however, close contacts will not be allowed to return until they have finished quarantining.

Soldotna High School will remain open for in-person classes, in accordance with its mitigation plans.
Credit Kenai Peninsula Borough School District

  The district is not sharing how many “close contacts” the current case has.

Contact tracing is done by the state’s public health department.

“In this case, when we learn of something, our lead nursing supervisor, Nurse Iris, works with the school nurse,” Erkeneff said. “And then the principal or assistant principal, as well, can be brought in, depending on what we have to look at and how rapidly we have to.”

Erkeneff noted that because the district found out about the case in the early afternoon, it could contact trace that day and did not have to cancel or delay school Wednesday.

At this time, the district has not yet identified an outbreak. An outbreak occurs when two or more students or staff members test positive for the virus.

You can read about the district’s coronavirus plans, see its criteria for closing in-person school attendance or confidentially report a coronavirus case on its COVID-19 KPBSD Hub, online.