A small group of Stowe High School students may have been exposed to someone who tested positive for COVID-19, and a worker at Stowe pizzeria Piecasso has tested positive for the disease.

Stowe High School principal Gretchen Muller said she and other school officials learned Thursday, Sept. 10, “that a small group of students may have been exposed to COVID-19 through someone outside of our school community.”

As of press time, there have been no confirmed cases of the disease in any of the Lamoille South schools in Stowe, Morristown and Elmore, according to superintendent Tracy Wrend.

Wrend notes, however, there have now been instances in all the district’s schools where someone knew someone who has had “close contact” with the virus.

“This isn’t a school-specific problem. It’s a COVID problem,” she said.

She said the district has planned long and hard for what to do if the virus infiltrates a school, everything from isolating an individual to keeping “pods” of students home, to shutting down a school and going remote, to going back to fully remote education.

“Of course, we expected this,” Wrend said. “I was surprised at how soon and how widespread it happened.”

In her announcement Friday, Muller said students were “following the protocol that we've been planning for,” which includes staying home, skipping after-school activities, and following their doctor’s orders and state health department guidelines. 

“Our schools continue to be a safe place,” Muller wrote. “Our faculty, staff and students have been doing a fantastic job following all safety protocols, including washing hands, using hand sanitizer, wearing masks, maintaining physical distancing and following all cleaning protocols of classrooms.”

School officials have stressed all summer that it would be a question of when, not if, coronavirus would infiltrate the schools. Already, in Vermont’s first week of in-person classes, Crossett Brook Middle School in Duxbury and Hartford High School had positive COVID-19 cases.

Wrend said now that people have an idea how quickly the virus can move, the hardest part may be how slowly information moves. Waiting for a phone call from the health department can be agonizing.

“It’s that gap of waiting that might be most difficult, second only to receiving a positive test result,” she said.

Pizzeria has positive case

An employee at Piecasso, the popular Stowe pizzeria on Mountain Road, tested positive for COVID-19, according to owner Ed Rovetto, who announced the news on social media Monday.

Rovetto said the decision to close for two days for a deep clean was made by the staff, and there is no indication any diners were exposed, and anyone with a potential exposure has already been contacted.

“I want to put the public’s mind at ease,” Rovetto wrote. “I am restating as per the Department of Health that patrons that have been in for takeout or dined at Piecasso were not at risk of COVID exposure.”

The restaurant closed down Monday and Tuesday for a deep clean and was planning on opening for takeout again Wednesday and for dining Friday. Piecasso was one of the first area restaurants to figure out how to rejigger its dining operations and spread things out after Gov. Phil Scott relaxed restrictions for restaurants.

Rovetto said the person who tested positive “is feeling much better and recovering.” Anyone who considered themselves exposed went immediately into quarantine and have already taken the COVID-19 test, and have not showed any symptoms of the disease. Rovetto also took the test, even though he says the health department said it wasn’t necessary. His family is also quarantining until he receives the test results.

“Safety is and has always been our number one priority,” Rovetto wrote. “For many years, we have valued your patronage, your company and your friendship. We have complete confidence that we can continue to offer a safe dining experience. We appreciate your understanding in these difficult times. We have always appreciated your support.”

Misinformation spread

Kyle Walker, Stowe’s fire chief and head of emergency management, has often cautioned against jumping to conclusions about COVID-19 rumors, in his regular coronavirus updates to the town select board. Monday, he addressed the issue again.

“Let’s take a moment and talk about factual information versus conjecture. As with many small towns, information travels very quickly, often via word of mouth. This is even more relative in the age of social media and technology, where it seems that word travels closer to the speed of light,” he said. “This makes it even more important to verify that what you are hearing is, in fact, the truth. If you cannot verify that, then you shouldn’t be telling anyone else. The information should stop with you and travel no further. Spreading misinformation is beneficial to no one. It only hurts those that are involved, and it wastes time and resources of those that must sift through the information in order to carry on with their regularly scheduled day.”

He also gave a shout out to school employees, saying it “is no small task” to try and teach kids in person.

“In order for it to be successful, they need our support and encouragement, so let’s be patient and give them as much as we can muster,” he said.

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