CONWAY — In an effort to continue face-to-face education, school and health officials are urging against travel over the Thanksgiving holiday and ask people not to gather in large groups.
“We see it as a short-term sacrifice for a long-term gain,” SAU 9 Superintendent Kevin Richard said by phone Tuesday.
The Thanksgiving break for schools in SAU 9 and SAU 13 begins Wednesday and runs through Friday.
SAU 9 includes Kennett High, Kennett Middle School along with Conway Elementary, John H. Fuller School and Pine Tree Elementary School in the Conway School District; Josiah Bartlett Elementary School in Bartlett and Jackson Grammar School in Jackson.
SAU 13 features Freedom Elementary School; Madison Elementary School and the K.A. Brett School in Tamworth.
Richard, SAU 13 Superintendent Meredith Nadeau; Sarah Arnold head of school for the Northeast Woodlands Charter School in Conway; Dr. Rich Laracy of the Saco River Medical Group; Dr. Wenda Saunders of Memorial Hospital; and Julie Hill of White Mountain Community Health all penned a letter to the community on Friday urging people to follow CDC and N.H. Department of Health and Human Services to limit holiday gatherings and avoid travel.
“With your cooperation we have been able to keep our school doors open through Thanksgiving while navigating the ever-changing pandemic,” they wrote. “Our students have clearly benefited from the return to in-person instruction, and it is our collective goal to do all that we can to keep our school buildings open for students. As you prepare for the coming holidays, we encourage you and your families to remain informed and vigilant in your decision-making to support us in that shared goal.”
The medical and educational professionals shared thoughts on holiday gatherings, travel and testing in their two-page letter.
Holiday gatherings: “The CDC and N.H. DHHS recommend limiting holiday gatherings to members of your immediate household. If you are planning holiday celebrations, please consider all participants’ travel exposure as well as the size of your gathering(s).
This Georgia Tech risk calculator (tinyurl.com/y8atyfxh) calculates the risk that at least one person in a gathering will have COVID-19 based on size of gathering and region (by county).”
Carroll Counties current risk level, according to the Georgia Tech calculator stood at 35 percent as of Monday afternoon. Hillsborough County was the highest at 57 percent.
Of towns contained within SAU 9 and SAU 13, as of Monday, Albany had a total of 1-4 cases, zero active; Bartlett has 12 cases, 1-4 active; Chatham, 1-4 cases, zero active; Conway, 64 total cases (up from 50 on Thursday), 18 active (up from nine on Thursday); Freedom, 9 cases, 1-4 active; Madison, 12 cases, 1-4 active; Tamworth, 13 cases, 6 active; and Eaton, Hart’s Location and Jackson all report zero total cases, none active.
Travel: “The CDC continues to urge us to stay home noting that travel increases one’s chances of getting and spreading COVID-19. N.H. DHHS also recently updated travel guidance: Travelers/visitors to and residents (including college students) of N.H. need to self-quarantine for 14 days following the last date of any high-risk travel, which includes travel outside of the New England states, international travel (including to/from Canada) and travel cruises.
“People meeting the criteria for high-risk travel have the option of shortening their 14-day quarantine by obtaining a PCR-based test on day 7 of their quarantine; antigen tests are not accepted for this purpose.
“If the test obtained on day 7 of quarantine is negative and the person is asymptomatic, then the person can end their quarantine early. Individuals who meet this criteria must still self-observe for symptoms of COVID-19.
“Any new symptoms of COVID-19 should prompt the person to isolate and seek testing again (even if the person recently tested out of quarantine).
“This 7-day ‘test out’ of quarantine option only applies to travel-related quarantine (not quarantine due to close contact exposure to a person with COVID-19).”
Testing: “N.H. DHHS continues to encourage anyone with new or unexplained, even mild, symptoms of COVID-19 to contact their health care provider and seek a test.
“Families may receive coverage for testing costs through Medicaid by completing documentation available at nheasy.nh.gov and Mount Washington Valley testing sites.
“Thank you for your continued commitment to keeping our community members safe and healthy and our schools open in this unprecedented time.”
“We’re asking people to be really thoughtful and mindful in what they do this holiday season,” said Nadeau by phone last Wednesday. “The larger groups you bring together the larger the odds are that someone will be positive (for the coronavirus).”
She added: “I think we all realize the importance of keeping our schools open. We’ve been doing really well, but we also know the transmission (rate) is starting to spread. We all need to remain vigilant to get through this.”
Richard understands the importance of family, but agrees “everyone needs to sacrifice” in these trying times. It will be he, and Donna, is wife, and the two dogs, Floyd and Huckleberry, for Thanksgiving. Their three grown children are hunkering down in their homes and not traveling.
This Thanksgiving, Richard shared what he is thankful for.
“Family is the top of the list,” he said, adding, “I’m thankful I work in the profession I do. I’m privileged to work in this profession and privileged to work with the stuff we have. I’m proud of the efforts of everyone. I know how much they have all given of themselves for us to be where we are today. It’s definitely been a challenge the last nine months, but it’s been amazing to see everyone trying to do the right thing for the kids in this community.”