COVID case tests recreation department, school response

Julie Reichle

Hampton Field was the site of PRD camps last summer.

When the Piedmont Recreation Department learned on Oct. 28 that a young participant in two of its programs tested positive for COVID-19, notice was given quickly to Alameda County health officials and the families of recreation program participants. 

A letter from Recreation Director Chelle Putzer was sent that evening to families in the JV Level Tennis Program, explaining that their children may have been exposed to someone who had last attended that program on Oct 23, and received a positive test result on Oct. 28. The letter recommended that anyone who may have been exposed at the tennis program should remain under home quarantine for 14 days — through Nov. 7 — and to stay home and not have any visitors. “As an extra precaution we cancelled remaining programming for the week,” she said.

The positive-test case took part in two PRD programs, Putzer said. “We follow the county’s guidelines for pods/cohorts/stable groups and health screening protocols, so we were able to isolate the pods that were potentially exposed, review attendance forms going back to the potential exposure date and then notify those families who may have been exposed.”

Putzer said that the young tennis student was the first PRD camp participant to test positive for COVID-19. “We had a contractor coach test positive earlier in the summer, but that individual did not have close contact to any of the participants in the program, and the program was not affected,” she said.

Putzer said that her office didn’t formally notify the school district on the 28th, as the school offices are closed and that distance learning remains in effect. But she said she was in communication with a district nurse. 

“We have been working closely with (the school district) during distance learning, and will be in close coordination once students return to campus,” Putzer said. “These are all of our kids and we want to make sure we are doing everything we can to help keep them safe.”

PUSD schools Superintendent Randall Booker said district personnel have been aware of the eighth-grader’s positive diagnosis. “There’s a lot of communication and a lot of collaboration that goes on; we have a very close relationship with city offices, including the rec department,” he said.

Booker also said Thursday that PUSD is moving ahead with school reopening plans starting with the youngest students starting their return Dec. 1 and 3. (Some special education students returned to Havens and Beach elementary schools on Nov. 3 and were set to return to Wildwood on Nov. 12).  Middle and upper schools will not return to campus before the start of the second semester in mid-January.

Keeping Piedmont residents safe from the coronavirus will be a challenge as case rates spike in Alameda County and all over the state and nation, especially as the holidays approach. And county health officials said there’s no indication that trend will reverse in the near term.

Total coronavirus cases in Piedmont stood Friday at 52, up from 47 at the beginning of last week. Alameda County had 25,400 total cases reported as of Friday (up 151 just from Wednesday) with 486 deaths reported. The county’s daily new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 people, as calculated by the state, has risen from a low of 3.4 to 4.9 cases per 100,000 this week. 

Alameda County, which as of Friday was still in the “orange tier” under the state’s Blueprint for a Safer Economy, on Thursday announced the county likely will move back to the more restrictive “red tier” as early as next week. The county has already imposed some red-tier-level restrictions. “If current trends continue, Alameda County will move all the way back into the purple tier,” the Alameda County Public Health Department said Thursday, meaning even more business activities will be limited, and even more social activities restricted.

Neetu Balram, public information manager with the health department, said the whole of the county is experiencing increased COVID-19 case counts. So too are the entire Bay Area, and the nation, she said. “At this moment, there’s nothing to indicate an increase in Piedmont is unique from what we’re seeing elsewhere,” Balram said.

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