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Employee tests COVID-19 positive at Washington Care-O-World

A member of the kitchen staff at Care-O-World Early Learning Center’s Washington location has tested positive for COVID-19, according to a letter sent to parents over the weekend.

The letter says the staff member is experiencing minor symptoms. A total of five employees in the learning center’s kitchen are being tested for the virus. According to Care-O-World Executive Director Jason Carrow, the staff member has not been in close contact with children.

“Our kitchen staff members who were in close contact with (the staff member) are quarantined for 14 days beginning immediately,” Carrow wrote in a letter to parents Sunday. “After speaking with her and all other office staff, we have not identified other close contacts. (The staff member) did have contact and interactions with families at drop off, but it was less than 15 minutes.”

After a thorough disinfecting process over the weekend, the facility reopened Monday. In an email Monday, Carrow recognized the stigma that comes with a positive COVID-19 test, but said the staff at Care-O-World is committed to providing a safe environment for the children and families they serve.

“There is certainly some level of stigma around being COVID positive (for both the person and any represented facility),” Carrow wrote. “For us, we continue to provide the best care possible, in the safest environment possible, for our students. I am proud of all of our staff members who maintain their confidence in our administration team, as well as the team at the health department. Operating safely remains our top priority every minute of every day that we are open.”

According to Beaufort County Health Director Jim Madson, the distinction between close and casual contact makes a difference in the likelihood of transmitting the disease. He says a person is more likely to contract COVID-19 through close, prolonged contact, rather than casual interactions. Madson says the health department has been working closely with local childcare providers throughout the pandemic to ensure the safety of children and staff.

“There’s quite a bit of guidance from the CDC that’s come through the state to us,” Madson said. “We send it to each of the childcare centers. We’ve notified all of them about the requirements, and if they have any issues, they can call and talk to us. We’ve had about four or five phone calls come through our hotline, and I’ve had a few of them call me personally.”

Carrow credited the health department for its quick response to the developing situation over the weekend. After he notified local officials of the positive test on Saturday evening, the department had recommendations ready for the learning center in less than 24 hours.

“The Beaufort County Health Department has been great to work with,” Carrow said. “I notified them on Saturday evening of the positive staff member, and less than two hours later we were having conversations about close contacts and the next steps to be taken. Before lunch on Sunday, the health department had spoken with several regional- and state-level experts, and we had a plan to move forward that keeps everyone as healthy and safe as possible.”

Carrow also echoed the advice of health experts, encouraging the public to do its part to help slow the spread of COVID-19. By taking simple steps such as wearing a mask, washing hands and avoiding large groups of people, Carrow says the community can help keep students in the classroom.

“Everyone should remember our schools and child care centers mirror our community,” Carrow wrote. “If Beaufort County cases are increasing, the number of children who test positive will also increase (along with teachers and other adults who support these facilities). Likewise if we have decreasing numbers, our schools are safer places. Wearing a mask, washing hands and avoiding large groups is a small price to pay in order for students to return to school, where they learn best.”

Parents with concerns are encouraged to reach out to either Carrow at Jasonc@careoworld.org or Meredith Mobley at the Beaufort County Health Department. Mobley can be reached at 252-946-1902 or by email at Meredith.mobley@bchd.net.