September 29, 2020
A statement from Superintendent Gilligan, Town Manager Rodrigues, Director of Health Services Cheryl Barczak and Health Director Brian LaGrasse
Over the past week, Merrimack College has seen a substantial increase in the number of COVID-19 cases on campus. Those cases have all been related to Merrimack College and contact tracing completed by the Town has shown no evidence of community spread due to this cluster.
We have been working directly with the Massachusetts Department of Public Health and other state agencies to gather information and get guidance as we navigate this event.
“Through contact tracing, which includes interviews completed with every positive case by our public health nurses, we have determined that the Merrimack cases are currently isolated,” said Brian LaGrasse. “We will continue to monitor all positive cases and public health data to ensure that the cases remain isolated and our community is safe. This is not considered a threat to the North Andover Public Schools. Through constant and comprehensive testing, this was caught early and Merrimack College has followed all the appropriate protocols and guidance.”
Town officials recognize that the Merrimack cases will cause the Town to be designated as a higher risk or red community. State Officials have been very clear that the Town should consider more than just this data point when making community decisions regarding schools and other activities. When considering whether school should be open, the following metrics are considered and the following Town officials consulted.
If there is a significant number of new cases in the municipality, Superintendent Gilligan consults daily with the Board of Health Director, the Public Health Nurse, the Director of Health Services, the Town Manager and the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. They consider not only the number of cases in the community, but also the origin of the cases, and whether contact tracing has shown a community spread event or a recognized cluster. This is not a decision that is taken lightly or that is made in a vacuum, but rather is a collaborative effort to make certain that school officials are acting on the best possible information and in the best interest of our students.
Based on the information available to the community and daily collaboration with town and state officials, the North Andover Public Schools will continue in the hybrid model. The schools will continue to diligently review all available information and make informed decisions based on patterns and multiple data sources.