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Spike in COVID cases forces Depew Middle School to returns to remote learning

Students will go back to their hybrid model on April 12 after there were 11 cases in just seven days.

DEPEW, N.Y. — Depew Union Free School District superintendent Jeffrey Rabey says he's disappointed after a spike in COVID-19 cases at Depew Middle School. 

"It's a little frustrating, a little deflating if you will," Rabey said. 

There were 11 cases in just seven days.

Rabey had been optimistic about the possibility of having more students back in the classroom. That's after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lowered guidelines on social distancing from six to three feet. 

"On Friday, we were pretty excited. We could start to see the light at the end of the tunnel in regards to bringing students back," Rabey said. 

It was his hope New York State would follow those same guidelines, though they aren't right now.

Even if it did change soon, Depew Middle School would have to wait. All students are back to remote learning until at least April 12.

So where did this outbreak come from? 

"All of the contact tracing evidence indicates the transmissions took place outside in the community through youth sports and within individual households," Rabey said. 

That's according to information the school received from the Erie County Department of Health. 

The outbreak is just part of an uptick in cases across the county. 

As of March 20, there were 247 cases of COVID in Erie County Schools, primarily coming from private schools who moved to three feet of social distancing.  

"There's been quite a number of outbreaks either in classrooms or entire schools that have a three feet distancing between desks and um that is regardless of whether masks are being used or not," Erie County Department of Health commissioner Dr. Gale Burstein said. "So there's still COVID-19 in our schools."

According to an infectious disease expert, it's not surprising the number of cases is on the rise within schools, whether they changed those rules or not.

"Whether this is occurring in outside activities or within the household is of course difficult to say but once someone is infected gets in the household, there's a high likelihood of susceptible members to subsequently get infected because of course we don't distance and wear a mask in the household setting," according to Dr. Thomas Russo, the University at Buffalo chief of infectious disease. 

It's why he encourages everyone to get the vaccine when they're eligible and to not let "pandemic fatigue" keep them from following those public health guidelines.