COVID cases soar at Wellesley Middle School after students’ performance of ‘Frozen’

Wellesley Public Schools administrators tightened COVID-19 protocols again on Friday after an outbreak among the cast and crew of a college musical played last weekend contributed to a spike in cases.

As of Friday, 44 new cases had been reported among students and staff at the college since March 19, more than 60% of the 72 infections reported at Wellesley schools during that period, according to the COVID-19 data dashboard. 19 of the district.

Of those cases, 28 involved middle school students who participated in last weekend’s three-performance series of “Frozen Jr.”, which ran from March 17-19, Superintendent David Lussier said.

Some 88% of Wellesley Middle School students are vaccinated.

“I’m not sure we know exactly why, but we saw a big increase at Wellesley Middle School,” Lussier said. “The show certainly doesn’t account for every case, but it’s a big cast. When a lot of kids are involved [and] there is an increase in school, it is not surprising.

To stem the outbreak, which Lussier said slowed after 30 cases were reported Monday, the district is requiring audience members at two high school choir concerts this weekend to wear masks. Artists and crew members will be required to wear masks backstage, as was the case at “Frozen Jr.” shows. Middle school students will be temporarily split into two separate groups for lunch until the cases clear up.

The outbreak seems to indicate that although mask and testing protocols have relaxed, the virus is still circulating and sometimes spreading unpredictably.

Two weekends ago, Wellesley High School presented a musical to a “huge audience”, Lussier said, from which no new cases have been identified.

“Is there a perfect solution? No,” Lussier said. “It’s all part and parcel of going from pandemic to endemic, where those are the things we’re going to have to figure out how to coexist with.”

When the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education reports weekly COVID-19 data for school districts on Thursday, Wellesley had the second-highest number of cases among students and staff statewide, behind only Brookline. .

Some cases in the school district may not be considered. The state is providing rapid tests to districts so students can test weekly at home, but Wellesley schools, like many districts, no longer have a mandatory contact tracing program. The district is providing PCR testing for symptomatic students and staff.

The majority of students infected this week had mild symptoms, Lussier said. But some parents are calling for stricter security measures.

A parent, the mother of a sixth-grader who was not in the musical, said Friday that she and her husband tested positive for COVID-19 earlier this week and were both symptomatic. She believes her daughter, who also tested positive, brought the virus home from school. The relative, who asked that she not be identified for fear of reprisals in the community, said the district was not doing enough to limit large gatherings.

“I know other parents have a different opinion, but to me it’s amazing,” she said. “It’s not just students who are at risk here.”

Andrew Brinker can be contacted at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at @andrewnbrinker.

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