PALMER — Mat-Su Borough School District Superintendent Dr. Randy Trani announced on Wednesday that students involved in activities including athletics within MSBSD must wear masks at all times.
Trani provided a COVID-19 update for the third quarter during his administrative report at the school board meeting on Wednesday and noted “the dramatic surge in cases” in January involving schools. Trani presented data that showed that between the start of schools delivering instruction in-person in August and early January, the MSBSD associated cases accounted for only 10 percent of all of the cases in the Mat-Su Borough. However, over a two week period in January the MSBSD had 99 positive cases out of 268 in the Borough at that time, accounting for 38 percent of all cases in the Valley.
“It was going just really crazy really fast so we could tell we were in the middle of an exponential spread,” said Trani. “We were dramatically overrepresented for case rate for a while and that’s when we made the decision to go back to masks during all activities.”
During the last meeting on February 3, Trani noted that 42 percent of all positive cases in schools came from maskless environments. In 117 days of in-person instruction delivered in Valley schools, 895 COVID-19 cases have been associated with the school district and tracked, but not necessarily has each case been infectious within school buildings. In February, 58 percent of all athletic contests were canceled. Trani noted that the surge in cases associated with the school district and requiring all students to wear masks at all times, even during athletic competition, was not the fault of any children. The Health Action Team that meets once a day to determine the risk level in MSBSD schools began to develop theories on the rise in cases and test what could have caused the surge.
“What have we changed without mitigation? So the problem was what we found by looking at the cases and where they were coming from and the majority of them were in maskeless environments, that’s where we were seeing this spread similar to outbreaks that they have had in other organizations,” said Trani.
Trani noted that on a positive note, cases have recently been slowing down and the MSBSD will host state competitions for Cross-Country Skiing at Government Peak Recreation Area and for hockey at the Menard Sports Complex. Trani said that plans are underway to host the basketball state tournament in the Valley as well. Near the end of his presentation, Trani presented a slide with the word ‘draft’ in large red letters across the top detailing a timeline for a return to normalcy. Trani estimates that during summer school instruction, students may not be required to wear masks.
“The case counts are going to determine this timeline more than anything,” said Trani.
Mat-Su Regional Medical Center COVID-19 Taskforce Chair Dr. Tom Quimby also presented to the school board, urging the importance of mask wearing by students for the safety of residents of the Valley as a whole.
“I just think this is an important tool to help us keep the freedom and in class learning that we have right now,” said Quimby. “I don’t want to see that lost, I don’t think anybody here does.”