COVID-19 outbreaks shake Castaic and West Ranch cheer teams

SIGNAL FILE PHOTO: Students and parents walk through campus at Castaic High School's first Back to School Night Tuesday. Cory Rubin/The Signal

The cheer teams at Castaic High School and West Ranch High School experienced outbreaks of COVID-19, according to data recently published online by Los Angeles County Department of Public Health officials. 

The department’s data indicated that 10 students and one staff member with the Castaic High School cheer team and 13 students with the West Ranch High School cheer team have had confirmed cases of COVID-19, as of Friday, Aug. 13. 

Both schools are part of the William S. Hart Union High School District, which reopened its campuses to in-person learning Tuesday as they commenced the start of a new school year. 

The Hart district’s online COVID-19 dashboard has listed one current staff member case – within the last 14 days – of COVID-19 at Castaic High School. 

The district’s dashboard also reported two current cases among Castaic students and five current cases for West Ranch students. 

The outbreak “occurred at a voluntary cheer camp in Indian Wells on July 25-28,” according to an email statement from Dave Caldwell, public information officer for the Hart district. 

“Neither outbreak was found to have occurred on either the West Ranch or Castaic campuses,” he said. “Our district works closely with (Los Angeles County Department of Public Health) and met with field representatives last week who also determined that our schools are not the site of COVID transmission.” 

Caldwell said all school families were notified of the outbreak and advised to take a COVID-19 test. The district has also conducted contact tracing in cooperation with the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health. 

“Close contacts are advised to quarantine until negative COVID tests or proof of vaccination is provided,” Caldwell said. 

Those close contacts must quarantine – or isolate, if they tested positive – until at least 10 days have passed. 

They also have to have been fever-free for 24 hours with improved symptoms before returning to school and resuming all cheer activities, he said. 

County public health protocols require that schools assure access to testing for symptomatic students and staff and for all close contacts to cases. 

Natalie Jimenez, a spokeswoman for the county Public Health Department, said the county recommends testing asymptomatic students at least once per week, giving priority to unvaccinated students. 

“In the setting of an active outbreak investigation, additional requirements may apply and recommended testing may be required in that setting per DPH outbreak management determinations,” she said, noting a weekly testing recommendation for students with a medical exemption excusing them from wearing a mask. 

Caldwell said the students quarantined at home will have their school work sent to them assigned by their teachers. 

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