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HEALTH

R.I. students are confined to home after contact with teacher who tested positive for coronavirus

Saint Raphael Academy in Pawtucket plans to remain closed another week

A cafeteria seen through a window sat vacant at Saint Raphael Academy in Pawtucket, R.I.
A cafeteria seen through a window sat vacant at Saint Raphael Academy in Pawtucket, R.I.David Goldman/Associated Press

Saint Raphael Academy students who had direct contact with a faculty member who tested positive for coronavirus will be quarantined at their homes until March 12, the principal said Wednesday in an e-mail to parents.

And the Catholic high school in Pawtucket plans to remain closed another week, until March 16, now that three people have tested positive for Covid-19, the respiratory illness caused by the new virus, after going on a school trip to Italy in mid-February, Principal Daniel Richard wrote.

That faculty member is the woman in her 20s who lives in Norfolk County in Massachusetts, which extends from southern metro Boston to the Rhode Island border. She was tested by health officials in that state who confirmed her diagnosis on Monday.

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On Tuesday, Rhode Island officials said she works at Saint Raphael’s and was on the European school trip.

After she was diagnosed, the school provided her class rosters to state health officials, who began contacting the families of those students Tuesday night, Richard wrote. The message did not say how many students are involved.

But on Wednesday night, the state Department of Health said some 200 people are now being told to quarantine themselves at home because they have had direct contact with someone with Covid-19. All 200 have some connection to the school trip, a health department spokesman said.

In addition, state health officials are awaiting test results for seven people, and test results have come back negative for 11 others.

In all, three people who were on the trip have tested positive for Covid-19, state health officials said. The first was a man in his 40s who remained hospitalized and in stable condition on Wednesday, they said. The second was a teenager who went to school for three-and-a-half days after the trip before going home sick.

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The state asked all 38 people who went on the trip to stay isolated at home for 14 days.

Richard said the Department of Health has indicated that the latest quarantine is only for Saint Raphael students who were in direct contact with the faculty member.

“Parents, siblings and other household members are not impacted and may go about business as usual,” he wrote. “Students who are not self-quarantined are allowed to be out in public.”

Saint Raphael Academy had planned to remain closed all of this week, but it now will wait another week before allowing students to return to campus.

“Although transmission risk is still low, we prefer to take a conservative approach,” Richard wrote. “We know that this is unconventional, and we ask for your continued patience and cooperation as we work to safeguard the well-being of the community.”

The Department of Health is not requiring that Saint Raphael Academy remain closed, he said, but the administration decided to keep the school shuttered and have students continue doing online coursework next week.

Richard said school officials are working to determine how extracurricular activities, including sports and drama, will be conducted while the school is closed.

Richard noted that a coronavirus test came back negative for an Achievement First charter school staff member who served as a chaperone on the trip. “We are very relieved for her and the school community,” he wrote.

On Thursday, Governor Gina M. Raimondo and Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott, the director of the state Department of Health, plan to hold a news conference at 10:30 a.m. to provide updates on the state’s response to Covid-19.

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Meanwhile, two East Providence teachers are staying home amid concerns that they were exposed to the coronavirus, the schools superintendent announced.

A teacher at Silver Spring Elementary School is home because her husband tested positive for Covid-19 after traveling to Italy in mid-February with Saint Raphael, Superintendent Kathryn M. Crowley said in a statement on the school district website.

The Silver Spring teacher attended school for two days but is now voluntarily quarantined at home and has not reported any symptoms, Crowley said.

The teacher’s husband, who is in his 40s, has been hospitalized as Rhode Island’s first confirmed case of Covid-19, the respiratory illness caused by the new coronavirus.

The second teacher, who works at East Providence’s Career and Technical Center, has decided to stay at home for the rest of this week “out of an abundance of caution” because she went on a family vacation to Italy in February, Crowley said in the statement, which does not name the teachers.

That teacher plans to contact the state Department of Health if she has any symptoms, the statement says.

Raimondo is advising colleges and other schools to cancel trips abroad, just as Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker has done. Raimondo noted that the trip to Europe organized by Saint Raphael has already resulted in three positive tests for coronavirus.

“That falls into the category of commonsense,” she said.

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Edward Fitzpatrick can be reached at edward.fitzpatrick@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @FitzProv. Dan McGowan can be reached at dan.mcgowan@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter at @danmcgowan.