TALENT, Ore. — About one hundred students at Talent Middle School are having to quarantine at home after a handful of positive COVID-19 cases among members of the school football team, Phoenix-Talent School District administrators confirmed on Tuesday.
Administrators found out Monday morning that three members of the Talent Middle school football team had tested positive for COVID-19 over the weekend. While Oregon's school protocols are more lenient for quarantine when students are wearing masks, students playing sports are allowed to do so without masks or consistent social distancing — meaning that quarantines are more extensive when they do catch COVID-19.
As a result, all members of the school football team were considered exposed and presumed positive, said Phoenix-Talent communications specialist Joe Zavala. Football practices have also been canceled until the quarantine is over.
"Furthermore, we are required by our community health partners to contact trace the 48-hour time period prior to the positive test, which meant the contact tracers had to go back to Thursday and Friday and contact trace every football player's schedule, class by class," Zavala continued.
By the end of the process, 103 students were quarantined. Around 50-55 of those students were exposed in the school, and another 40 were football players. Zavala said that the total could drop somewhat for students who can provide proof of vaccination or have previously tested positive for COVID-19, as those who had the virus within the last 90 days are not required to quarantine.
No teachers or other staff had to quarantine, as they were all either fully vaccinated or were not found to be exposed.
Talent Middle School has 486 students in total, meaning that the quarantine currently impacts more than a fifth of the student body. Almost two dozen additional students were exposed but did not have to quarantine because they were vaccinated, and four others because they had tested positive for the virus within 90 days.
Phoenix-Talent administrators offered two quarantine options to families: a 14-day "gold standard" quarantine recommended by public health officials, and a 10-day option. As the date of exposure is believed to be September 9, students would return to the classroom on either September 23 or 20 under those two options, assuming they are symptom-free.
Superintendent Brent Barry said that administrators know outbreaks like this are a possibility, so they have plans in place in order to hit the ground running when they occur.
"It's a lot of time and work and effort for our staff," Barry said. "We had staff here until late in the evening, calling families . . . and knowing that that's a tough call to have, a tough conversation to have. We'll never get used to it, it's not what we got in this business to do, but it's a part of our world now and we're responding."