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VICENZA, Italy — Vicenza High School was closed Monday after a student tested positive for the coronavirus over the weekend, DODEA officials said.
The building was being cleaned and disinfected while public health officials conduct contact tracing to identify, quarantine and if necessary test close contacts of the student.
“This is the standard protocol we’ve followed,” said Stephen Smith, a Department of Defense Educational Activity spokesman. The high school was expected to reopen Tuesday unless contact tracers found “more contact than expected,” Smith said.
“My sense is that won’t be necessary. As it stands now we’ll be open tomorrow,” he said.
Some 325 students attend Vicenza High.
Smith said he didn’t know how the infected student came to be tested for the highly contagious respiratory virus that has killed hundreds of thousands of people worldwide. Students are not tested at the school.
“In other cases, students have been sent home with symptoms,” Smith said. “We’ve been pounding that message: if your children have symptoms, keep them home.”
At least four DODEA schools in Germany had closed their doors this fall after positive tests for the virus. Sembach Elementary and Kaiserslautern Middle School were shut for a day, while Stuttgart High School suspended in-classroom learning for more than a week and Ramstein Intermediate School shuttered for weeks after five positive cases. The Stuttgart case was complicated by the positive test of a teacher who taught in multiple classrooms, Smith said. The teacher has since tested negative and returned to the classroom.
U.S. Army Garrison Italy announced the closure of Vicenza High School Sunday night on its Facebook page.
“Public health will reach out to affected parents - please do not call their office,” the announcement said. “If you are not contacted by public health officials, you have not been deemed to have been in close-contact. We are working closely with our military leadership to monitor the situation. All decisions will be made with the health of our students, staff and community in mind.”
The closing comes a day after Italy imposed at least a month of new coronavirus restrictions across the country. People are required to wear masks outdoors and restaurants must close to dining by 6 p.m., though takeout is still allowed, under rules announced by Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte on Sunday.
Smith said DODEA’s protocols, which are in keeping with guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and local commands, have been largely successful in opening schools while safeguarding students, teachers and communities.
“They have worked to keep incidents relatively isolated,” he said.