Wiscasset Elementary School has postponed a vaccine clinic for younger students this week after new COVID-19 cases reported Monday forced the school to continue distance learning for the rest of the week.
The Wiscasset School District reported that four individuals at Wiscasset Elementary School, which includes kindergarten through sixth grade, tested positive for COVID-19, according to a letter Chief Superintendent Terry Wood wrote to families Monday. Wood said the school plans to return to face-to-face learning on Monday, Nov. 15.
The primary school initially switched to distance learning on Wednesday, November 3 after two people within the school tested positive for COVID-19.
Someone from Wiscasset Middle High School, where grades 7-12 teach, tested positive for COVID-19 on Tuesday, causing the school to switch to distance learning on Wednesday, Nov. 10. The in-person class for the school will resume Monday, Nov. 15, according to a letter from Wood sent to families on Tuesday.
Coinciding with the school closures, a vaccination clinic for children aged 5-12 at the primary school was also canceled on Tuesday.
Wood declined to answer questions from The Times Record about how many students were scheduled to be vaccinated at the clinic, how many have already been vaccinated, which organization should run the vaccination clinic and when the clinic will be rescheduled.
Wood also declined to say how many students are participating in the pooled testing program and how many students and faculty are in quarantine because they were identified as close contacts of someone who tested positive for COVID-19.
A Wiscasset parent with two students at Wiscasset Elementary, who asked to remain anonymous for her safety, said she has grown increasingly frustrated with the district’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic and that the canceled vaccine clinic “is the cherry on top.” on the cake”.
The parent said one of her children has asthma, which “makes the COVID-19 situation even more terrifying”.
“One of my kids jumped up and down and said, ‘Mom, they’re going to do this for us, they’re going to have a clinic at school,’ and we signed up and were ready,” the parent said. “We feel like the rug has been pulled from under us.”
The parent said this is her family’s first year in the district and she is disappointed with the district’s lack of clear and timely communication, especially on issues related to the pandemic.
“It felt like I was thrown into a circus,” said the parent. “The screening process before children are sent to school is so lacking. There are no specifics about anything and it lends itself to interpretation. I think the reason the school has an outbreak now is because people have not taken into account the long list of symptoms associated with COVID-19.”
The parent said she had contacted the school seeking answers about why the vaccine was canceled and where families can go to get their children vaccinated, but her questions were never answered.
The Wiscasset School District has struggled with a trail of COVID-19 cases since the school began in September, with some urging the school to go back to distance learning for a few days.
In all, the Wiscasset School District has reported 21 cases so far this academic year, according to the district’s website. Of those, eight are from Wiscasset Elementary School, 10 are from Wiscasset Middle High School. Three cases were reported as “individuals in the district,” but no school name was named, according to a Nov. 5 letter from Wood to families.
According to the Maine Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Education, about 81% of Wiscasset Middle High School staff and 74% of Wiscasset Elementary School staff had been vaccinated as of September.
By Tuesday, 3.5% of children ages 5-11 in Lincoln County had received their first dose of the vaccine, and nearly 70% of children ages 12-19 had been fully vaccinated.
The canceled clinic was scheduled for a week after health officials approved Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine for children ages 5-11, a decision that gave many parents in Maine a sense of long-awaited relief and progress.
dr. Chris Bowe, Chief Medical Officer of Mid Coast Hospital, said the hospital opened 2,400 pediatric vaccination appointments following the announcement, which began to fill within hours. Only 400 appointments had not yet been claimed by Tuesday morning, Bowe said.
“There’s been a rush of people, similar to what we saw when age eligibility was 12,” Bowe said. “There are many parents who are excited to have their children vaccinated and protected, which is very encouraging for our team. Some of the kids came in nervous for photos, as you’d expect, but there are also kids who are absolutely thrilled to get it.”
While it’s rare for children to have to be hospitalized because of COVID-19, Bowe said it’s still important for them to get immunized to protect both themselves and their community. This is partly because children can still have severe symptoms of COVID-19 and unknowingly transmit the disease as well.
“The more we vaccinate our community, the more COVID-19 has no place to spread further,” Bowe said. “The way to get to the other side of this pandemic is through vaccination first. If we can get enough people vaccinated so that the infected person can’t infect someone else because he or she has been vaccinated, that’s such a win.”
In addition to protecting themselves and others, Bowe said protecting children from COVID-19 will only benefit their mental well-being and bring a new sense of relief and freedom to their families.
“Children understand this pandemic at different levels based on their age and have been through this with us,” he said. “Wearing masks and not having play dates or sleepovers is a sacrifice they have had to endure. If we can get to a point where we can say, ‘You’ve got protection from this infection and so are your friends, so maybe it’s time for a sleepover,’ that’s such a positive step forward for kids.”
Mid Coast Hospital will be offering a pediatric vaccination clinic at Coffin School in Brunswick from November 8-17. Parents can register for appointments via the hospital’s website. Morse High School in Bath is also hosting a vaccine clinic at Mid Coast Hospital for children on November 19 from 7:45-11am
While Wiscasset has seen just 319 COVID-19 cases as of Nov. 7, 1,929 people in Lincoln County have tested positive and seven have died since the pandemic hit Maine in March 2020, according to the Maine CDC.
Statewide, 108,710 Mainers have tested positive for COVID-19 as of Tuesday and 1,215 have died, according to the Maine CDC. Of the state’s total cases, 21.6%, or 23,523, are people under 20 years old.
Children’s Vaccine Clinic Opens at Brunswick’s Coffin School After Federal Approval
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