HAVERHILL — The city’s head school nurse has tested positive for the new coronavirus, Superintendent Margaret Marotta said Friday.
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 17th and has been home since,” Marotta said in a statement to families emailed Friday night. “Katie cannot identify a direct link to any individual diagnosed with COVID-19.”
According to Haverhill Public Schools pediatrician Dr. John Maddox, Vozeolas was at City Hall and Silver Hill Elementary School on Monday. On Tuesday, she was at Burham School — a building used for office space — 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 those dates.
Haverhill students were last in school on Thursday, March 12.
Maddox says those who came in close contact with Vozeolas on the two days in question 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 — such as a classroom or conference room — with Vozeolas 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 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.
Maddox cites CDC guidelines when relaying that testing is not necessary for what he calls “contacts of contacts,” such as spouses or children, exposed to asymptomatic people with potential exposure to COVID-19.
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 24/7 and if necessary, testing will be ordered for those 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.”
According to Maddox, 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.”