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Hillman junior high schoolers to learn online after school staffer infected

Courtesy Image An illustration of the coronavirus provided by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

HILLMAN — Hillman sixth-, seventh-, and eighth-graders will transition to virtual learning next week through Nov. 16 after an employee tested positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by coronavirus.

Elementary and high school students will return to face-to-face instruction on Monday, according to Superintendent Carl Seiter. Elementary and high school students can also participate in activities, such as the football playoff game Friday in Marion, but junior high students can not.

Meanwhile, public health officials said an infected person or people had visited two local businesses and warned other visitors to monitor for symptoms of coronavirus infection:

* The Halloween bump and run and demo derby at the Montmorency County Fairgrounds in Atlanta, from 6:30 to 8 p.m. Oct. 24

* Applebee’s Grill and Bar of Alpena, from 1 to 2 p.m. Friday.

The warning does not mean those places did anything wrong or have to close, only that an infected person had visited those places and fellow visitors should be cautious.

About 40% of COVID-19 cases don’t present symptoms, according to District Health Department No.4, which cautions to avoid family and public gatherings.

Four more Northeast Michiganders were reported infected today: one Alpena County resident, one Presque Isle County resident, and two Montmorency County resident.

As of today, there are 143 actively infected Northeast Michiganders — a measurement of confirmed infections minus recoveries and deaths, according to a News analysis of local health department data. That’s more than at any time during the pandemic.

Three more people were admitted to the hospital today with confirmed or suspected COVID-19 across the state-designated, 18-county health care region that includes Alpena, Presque Isle, and Montmorency counties. Seventy-one people were hospitalized across those 18 counties, compared to 39 on Oct. 30.

Hillman officials closed the school district late Wednesday for the remainder of the week after they were notified the employee had been infected. The district did not identify the employee or say whether he or she was a teacher or other employee.

Seiter said on today said the employee was not exposed to the disease at school. He said the staff member interacts with multiple grade levels in the junior high.

In a letter addressed to parents and posted on the district’s Facebook page, Seiter said District Health Department No. 4 will contact any student identified through the contact-tracing process as someone who may have been in close contact with the employee.

In the meantime, Seiter encourages parents to monitor their children for symptoms of the disease. If a student begins showing symptoms, the parents should contact their family doctor as well as the school.

“It’s as good as it can be, even though it’s a horrible situation,” he said. “Anything that takes away kids’ face-to-face instruction with highly qualified teachers is something I worry about. But I think we’re in a good spot, and I don’t think our kids are going to miss out on too much, especially if we’re only talking a week.”

Seiter said he has “a feeling this isn’t going to be the district’s last case.”

News Staff Writer Julie Riddle contributed to this report.

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