Hazen student tests positive for COVID-19

School closed the rest of the week

A Hazen High School student and their parent have tested positive for COVID-19, coronavirus.

The school, under Public Health Seattle & King County guidance, will be closed Wednesday, March 4 to Friday March 6. All Hazen athletic tryouts and practices are cancelled, and any Hazen student trips or activities are also prohibited by Public Health.

Public Health is now recommending the school close while they determine who might have come into contact with the ill student, after the student tested positive. Renton School District closed Hazen Monday, March 2, to disinfect the school after a student was being tested for the novel coronavirus, which initially was not the recommendation of Public Health. The district then reopened on Tuesday based of Public Health guidance, which they were told to do regardless of the test result. But after the positive test came back late Tuesday night, Public Health recommended the closure.

Community response

Hazen Parent Teacher and Student Association President Kim Bass has been trying to keep herself and other school district families informed about the novel coronavirus and the student that has tested positive. She said right now a lot of parents are very concerned about the other schools being closed, and confused why they were reopened for one day. The district continues to emphasize that it has been following the directions of Public Health officials, that have decided all other schools should remain open at this time.

The student is at home recovering and has no siblings. Bass is familiar with the situation and said the student is also not involved in any sports or extracurricular activities, and also shared that the student is already getting better. The student’s parent works in a health care field that is very close to the virus outbreak in King County, Renton School District Spokesperson Randy Matheson told Renton Reporter on Tuesday, March 3.

Based on feedback from families, the district has now emailed out a question and answer page about the positive test result. They clarify that only one student has tested positive for COVID-19 in Renton schools, but does not clarify if other students are being tested at this time.

There are many rumors that a second Hazen student is being tested. Bass said a second student she knows is being tested today. But when asked about a possible second student, Matheson said “in our direct conversations with Public Health Seattle & King County, as of now, we have been told of no other student who has been tested.”

The Hazen and greater district community has a lot of fear and confusion right now, Bass said. Parents aren’t sure what to do.

“I know one (Hazen) student’s mom is seven-months pregnant, with three other children and she’s really scared,” Bass said. “That’s what we’re getting, a lot of frightened parents that don’t know what to do… they might be getting so panicked because they only read parts of things or hear small details.”

Students are reacting in variety of ways. A Hazen student named Ella said with finals for winter trimester next Thursday and Friday, she is worried about finishing projects in several classes, and will also be missing debate club if school remains closed next week.

Photo by Haley Ausbun. Hazen High School, one of the schools in the region closed due to a positive case of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.

Photo by Haley Ausbun. Hazen High School, one of the schools in the region closed due to a positive case of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.

As far as the novel coronavirus, Ella said she is not worried for herself, but for her parents who are both over 50. She knows teenagers and kids aren’t really impacted but older adults are. She has been trying to stay in her room as much as possible just in case she develops symptoms, after receiving an email from the district she may have been in a classroom the student that tested positive had been in. But many of her peers that she sees on social media are trying to keep talk about the school closure light-hearted.

“I feel like that’s just what our generation does, we make things humorous. It makes them less scary,” she said.

Bass has been trying to spread information to those who are anxious about the virus, mainly that the best thing everyone can do is wash their hands.

The district will work with Public Health to decide what to do for school next week, the post states. All other schools are open, and siblings of Hazen students are still encouraged to attend other district schools.

“We understand this guidance has changed and recognize the hardship this places on our students and families. Our top priority is to ensure the safety of our school community,” a post announcing the closure states.

Bass said the national attention that has been coming to Hazen has been overwhelming. She said while people are trying to get as much information as possible about for the family, now is the time to be supporting them.

“The first student, patient zero, feels so bad. They think it’s all their fault,” Bass said.

Hazen is also rescheduling an SAT testing that was scheduled for today, Principal Kate O’Brien is working with College Board to figure out retesting options.

The Hazen High School orchestra and band are also cancelling the March 5 band concert and March 10 orchestra concert, which will be cancelled even if the school is reopened by then.

“”I am impressed with how mature you were and for your positive attitudes yesterday as we prepared to hold our concerts,” A Hazen staff member told orchestra students over a public social media post. “I do regret our not being able to perform as its times like these we certainly need music in our lives – the live kind – not just Apple Music or Spotify.”

Bass said Hazen PTSA is also trying to start food donations for both the tested family and any families who cannot go get groceries. This story will be updated when Bass finalizes the details of the donation location.

Students from the Renton School District have circulated a petition to close down the school district due to the recent novel coronavirus outbreak.

“The novel coronavirus, or COVID-19 started in a public market in Wuhan, China. This has now spread to over 85,000 people around the globe and has caused almost 3,000 deaths, both totals higher than the SARS and MERS epidemics of the past. This virus can stay in the body for two weeks or more without showing symptoms, but over this incubation period, the virus can still be transmitted to others,” the petition states. “As where this won’t be fatal to most students, many infected individuals may spread the virus without their knowledge. Students have the ability to transmit the virus around schools, to their family and around the community, which could potentiality, and fatally, endanger many. We are asking the RSD Superintendent, Damien Pattenaude, and King County Public Health to close our schools to prevent the spreading of this virus.”

So far the petition has 1,416 signatures and has a goal of 1,500 signatures. According to the petition’s host, change.org, the author of the petition is a Hazen High School student. Hazen High School was closed for multiple days throughout the previous week due to a student and family member testing positive for COVID-19. The student is recovering at home.

RSD Spokesperson Randy Matheson replied to a request for comment with the district’s public message published on the district’s website.

Here is the district’s statement:

Renton School District is working closely with Public Health Seattle and King County, in conjunction with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to monitor an outbreak of respiratory illness caused used by a novel (new) coronavirus, a new strain that has not been previously identified in humans.

Public Health Seattle and King County, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) do not recommend closing schools. The health organizations weighed recommendations for schools very carefully. Here are some of the reasons they recommend schools remain open:

•The available data about COVID-19 cases has shown children and youth have not been high risk groups for serious illness from this virus.

•COVID-19 infection in children tends to be more like a common cold or a mild fever.

•Public Health – Seattle and King County knows schools are doing the important work of educating our children. They don’t want to disrupt that unless there are confirmed coronavirus exposure risks.

•Public Health – Seattle and King County also recognizes school closures have other impacts on working parents. School closures can be disruptive and costly for families, and they consider both the potential benefits and negative consequences of closures when they make recommendations.

If there is a confirmed case of COVID-19, Public Health will work with us to determine the best measures including potential school closure. As much as possible, children should be allowed to carry on with their education.

This is an evolving situation, and updates are available from the Washington State Department of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), including updated Travel Notices for countries with community transmission.

Many of those signing the petition seem to be students, who are commenting on their reasons for requesting the school stay closed.

“I do not want to be exposed to the virus while I’m at school,” Mick Collins wrote.

“I’m Signing Because a lot of people don’t care about others and come to school sick thinking they are alright,” signatory Emily Kissin wrote. “You could just have us do work at home but putting thousands of young amazing people in danger is not okay. It’s not just because of people not wanting to learn … it’s because we are small and want to live. Also many schools in Washington state have already closed even though we are located next to many other people who are infected.”

Superintendent Damien Pattenaude published a letter to parents on the district’s website explaining why only Hazen High School will be closed through Friday, March 6.

“As of today, we do not plan on cancelling events or gatherings (with the exception of Hazen). Families should consider their own potential risk to decide for themselves whether participating or attending is right for them,” Pattenaude stated. “We continue to review our cleaning protocols in context of the recommendations from the Washington State Department of Health and our practices are aligned. That said, we have revived campaigns in our schools and departments around excellent hygiene and hand washing. I encourage everyone to be mindful of accurate sources of information. We are updating information relevant to our district on our coronavirus website. The Health Department and CDC continue to be the most accurate source of information in our region.”