The city’s head school nurse has tested positive for the new coronavirus, School Superintendent Margaret Marotta said.
Katie Vozeolas, director of health and nursing services for Haverhill schools, tested positive three days after she first began feeling symptoms related to COVID-19.
“She left work immediately upon feeling ill on the (March) 17th and has been home since,” Marotta said in a statement emailed to families of students. “Katie cannot identify a direct link to any individual diagnosed with COVID-19.”
Haverhill public schools pediatrician Dr. John Maddox said Vozeolas was at City Hall and Silver Hill Elementary School on Monday of last week. The next day, she was at Burham School — a building used for school offices — and had what Maddox called “transient dealings” with three other schools he did not name.
Citing guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Maddox said Vozeolas was first considered contagious on Tuesday, March 17. Out of an “abundance of caution,” school officials are considering Monday, March 16, as a day she was “potentially contagious” and are notifying those who came in close contact with her on March 16 and 17.
Haverhill students were last in school on Thursday, March 12.
Maddox said people who came in close contact with Vozeolas on March 16 and 17 are at “medium risk” for having contracted the coronavirus. He said close contact is defined as being within six feet for 15 minutes or more.
Low-risk individuals are considered to be those in the same indoor environment with Vozeolas — such as a classroom or conference room — on those two days, but without close contact.
People who may have walked by Vozeolas or were briefly in the same room carry no identifiable risk of contracting COVID-19, Maddox said.
“Most of the people worried are going to be in category three,” Maddox said, referring to the lowest tier of risk. “Most of the people were in City Hall, or in Burnham (School) but in a different part than Katie. They may have passed her in the stairwell. They may have been in the room with her briefly. But they weren’t in contact and in the the same classroom or conference room or contained area with her for 15 minutes.
“The reason that’s important is because it can feel like every one of us is imminently at risk for COVID-19,” he said.
Residents who may be experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 — cough, fever or shortness of breath — are asked to call the Lawrence General Hospital COVID-19 screening line at 978-946-8409. The hotline is available at all hours of the day and night and, if necessary, testing will be ordered for people who need it.
The CDC’s coronavirus website reports the illness may be spread by “someone who is actively sick with COVID-19.” The CDC says “some spread might be possible before people show symptoms ... but this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads.”
Maddox said the coronavirus pandemic is nearing what he calls the “community transmission” stage, where it spreads without identifiable points of individual contact.
“It doesn’t matter if you went to China or the Biogen conference,” he said, referring to known areas of outbreak. “There’s enough of the virus around that it’s going to be spread.”