Staff shortage sends High School back to full-remote learning

COVID-19 cases in Abington quadruple in two weeks

Abington High School is moving to full remote learning for the remainder of the week due to a staff shortage, Abington Superintendent Peter Schafer announced Wednesday evening. 

“This evening, additional staff members at Abington High School were identified as needing to quarantine due to a close contact who tested positive for COVID-19. As a result, there is a shortage of needed staff and we are required to pivot to remote instruction at Abington High School only,” Schafer wrote in an email to parents and guardians.

It was not immediately known how many high school staff members are currently in quarantine for having come in close contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19. Schafer said students should be able to return to the regular hybrid schedule on Monday as the quarantine period for some staff expire.

However, the number of Abington residents in isolation with an active COVID-19 case has quadrupled over the past two weeks as the pandemic’s second wave washes over the region. 

The Board of Health posted Wednesday morning that the town’s number stood at 108. But by 3 p.m., they had upgraded the total to 122. 

Back on Nov. 23, there were 28 Abington residents in isolation following a positive COVID-19 test.

A chart showing growth in Abington’s COVID-19 numbers since Nov. 24. Gaps are dates with no reporting data.

“It really seems to be community spread from people getting together,” Abington Health Agent Marty Golighty said. “Please stay home, don’t have gatherings with anyone, act as if you are positive and make your decisions based on that, and stay home with any symptoms.”

The state Department of Public Health announced 5,675 new cases Wednesday afternoon, bringing the state’s number of active cases up over 61,000. Back on Nov. 23, there were 1,735 new cases statewide that day, for a total of 40,202 cases. 

The percentage of people testing positive over the past week is nearly at 6 percent. That figure was under 1 percent in September. 

Of all those testing positive over the past couple weeks, the vast majority have been under the age of 40.

Public health officials have attributed much of the spike to the recent Thanksgiving holiday. The virus typically has a five-day incubation period, “so we’re in the midst of it now,” said Board of Health Chairman Chris Schultz. 

Gov. Charlie Baker on Tuesday announced he was rolling back the state’s reopening status to Step 1 of Phase 3, which further limits the amount of people in most businesses. In addition, it toughens rules inside of restaurants, closes food courts, and limits outdoor gatherings to 50 people.  

Gov. Baker’s plan for distributing vaccines as announced Wednesday

The director of the CDC last week said this winter could be the “most difficult time in the public health history of this nation.” However, the process of rolling out COVID-19 vaccines is underway. 

Gov. Baker on Wednesday outlined how vaccines will be distributed in Massachusetts. The first batch of doses will be given in the coming weeks to doctors, nurses, and other health-care providers, as well as emergency responders. Vaccines will be available to the general public by mid-spring.