COVID continues to strike Pittsburgh’s day schools
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COVID-19Positive cases at CDS, Hillel Academy and Yeshiva Schools

COVID continues to strike Pittsburgh’s day schools

School leaders work to keep doors open while keeping children and staff safe.

Community Day School (Photo by David Rullo)
Community Day School (Photo by David Rullo)

A spike in COVID-19 cases has hit a third Jewish day school in Pittsburgh.

Between Dec. 27 and Jan. 6 — a month after a COVID outbreak hit Hillel Academy and Yeshiva Schools — Community Day School reported 17 positive COVID cases among its faculty, staff and students.

Students at CDS were required to return to the Squirrel Hill-based school after their winter break with a negative COVID test; that screening caught the bulk of the 17 cases, spokesperson Jennifer Bails said. Pooled testing after the break caught only one case.

“We are continuing to rely heavily on our daily health screenings and keeping everyone with a symptom out of school,” Bails said. “We adjusted our isolation and quarantine policy to align with the CDC and Allegheny County Health Department guidelines, with the advice of our medical advisers, and also a layer of antigen testing.”

Bails declined to comment on how many of the 17 cases occurred in the school’s early childhood education program, where students under age 5 have yet to receive clearance to receive COVID vaccinations. Earlier in December, outbreaks forced classroom closures at the Jewish Community Center of Greater Pittsburgh’s Early Childhood Development Center. Hillel Academy also reported most of its cases in early December occurred among children under 5.

Hillel Academy has about 24 to 26 cases in a shifting, 14-day snapshot of student health, according to Rabbi Sam Weinberg, the school’s principal. Hillel did close for the day on Jan. 7, but Weinberg said that was due to staffing and the snow accumulation. Yeshiva Schools closed the same day for similar reasons.

“At this stage of the pandemic, we’re really mindful of the mental health of the staff and students and we’re trying to stay open,” Weinberg said. “But it’s also understanding the risk of omicron. It’s complicated. These are real-life issues we’re dealing with here.”

At Yeshiva Schools there are between five and 10 COVID cases, according to Rabbi Yossi Rosenblum, who heads the school.

“There’s definitely omicron issues to combat but we’ve been able to keep school open,” Rosenblum said. “I don’t know what next week will bring. It seems like [the new variant] is burning through everything.”

One parent volunteer said she was pleased with how CDS leaders were handling the school’s outbreak of COVID.

“Seventeen sounds concerning but I know the school is doing everything above and beyond what’s being suggested by the CDC and their medical advisers,” said Bryna Finer, who heads CDS’ parent-teacher organization. “School is the safest place for my son to be right now.”

There have been 198,751 COVID infections among Allegheny County residents since 2020, according to the county’s dashboard on Jan. 9. There were 10,610 hospitalizations among those infections and 2,712 deaths. PJC

Justin Vellucci is a freelance writer living in Pittsburgh.

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