SUNNYSIDE — Shortly before noon Wednesday, March 25, School District Communications Director Jessica Morgan confirmed there has been one Sierra Vista Middle School staff member who has tested positive for COVID-19.
An automated call from the district was placed notifying parents and staff about the confirmed case. Morgan said they have been working closely with Yakima Health District and urge parents and staff to follow current novel coronavirus guidelines in dealing with the situation.
After Chrissa Pena, the mother of two school children, listened to the robocall, her initial thought was for the person and how bad the staff member was feeling while working around kids, unknowingly being COVID-19 contagious.
“Because you don’t work with kids unless you love kids,” Pena conveyed. “Yes, it’s a concern for the kids and co-workers… My main concern is for this person not feeling responsible.”
Sunnyside schools were officially closed by the end of the day on Friday, March 13. By Sunday, March 15, all 13 lower valley schools had complied with Gov. Jay Inslee’s mandate to close Washington K-12 schools through April 24.
School officials advise families and staff to closely monitor their health, along with the health of students while keeping an eye on COVID-19 virus symptoms of a cough, fever and shortness of breath for up to 14 days.
Pena’s kids — Marley, 6, an Outlook Elementary second grader and Jack, 12, a Sierra Vista sixth grade student with an autoimmune deficiency disorder — have been trying to adjust to the school closure and stay home orders.
She informed her son that a staff member at his school had contracted the virus, bringing the COVID-19 pandemic closer to home.
“His first inclination was, he burst into tears,” Pena stated as she proceeded to ask him what was wrong and if he was worried about getting the disease.
“He said, ‘No. I’m worried about them!’”
“Yeah, we’re all scared of contracting it, but I think bigger fears beyond that are for people we love and care about getting it,” Pena acknowledged.
Morgan added that people exhibiting symptoms and reside with a first responder are directed to contact their primary care provider immediately to get tested.
“Right now, there is no limitation on who can get tested. Every provider can decide to conduct testing on an individual,” YHD Director of Public Health Partnerships Lilián Bravo responded in an email statement. “However, given limited testing abilities, testing is being prioritized for the healthcare workers, first responders, people living in congregate settings as well as those that are in the high-risk group (older than 60, pregnant and underlying health conditions).”
The Sierra Vista staff member hasn’t been on campus since March 13, Morgan stated. Custodial staff came in on Monday, March 16, and performed a clean sweep of all the schools during the planned day off.
At the time of closing all schools, administrators recognized the probability, as a result of additional COVID-19 testing kits becoming available, there will be more confirmed cases reported.
“Because we know how it’s spreading and so, to keep that in mind too, we knew it was coming,” Morgan acknowledged.
She recommended residents to watch for updates while adhering to state and county mandates while keeping apprised about Center for Disease Control guidelines.
Presently, there’s no change in the district’s nutrition and food service pick-up program. School leaders are examining ways of distributing food to more kids.
“I think it’s brought people closer together in an unfamiliar way, even though we’re social distancing,” Pena reflected. “There’s so much good coming from people who you wouldn’t have thought about before. That’s the silver lining in all of this!”