ROSTRAVER – A person with COVID-19 attended Belle Vernon Area High School’s in-person commencement last week.
District Superintendent Michele Lee Dowell alerted the district about the discovery in a Tuesday letter to parents in which she included another from state Health Secretary Rachel Levine warning those who attended the June 24 event they may have been exposed to the virus.
“We’re going to follow the guidelines,” Dowell said Tuesday.
The announcement came on the same day Allegheny County experienced another record-setting high number of new novel coronavirus cases linked to travel and young adults crowding bars.
The Allegheny County Health Department said Tuesday it had recorded 109 new cases of the virus, breaking Sunday’s one-day total of 196. The outbreak prompted the county’s health department to close bars and in-person alcohol sales at restaurants until further notice.
The virus has killed 6,649 Pennsylvanians since March after 35 new deaths statewide were announced. There were 618 new cases announced Tuesday, taking the statewide total to 86,606.
The number of new cases also were creeping up in Washington and Greene counties. Washington County’s cases grew by three Tuesday, taking the total to 219. Greene County rose by two to 41.
Belle Vernon, located in Westmoreland County, held a virtual commencement that allowed small groups to accompany each of the 186 graduates to receive diplomas, Dowell said.
Some students and parents were not satisfied with that, and wanted the entire class to be together for graduation.
The district agreed, creating seating at James Weir Stadium that spaced the students out and requiring mask wearing.
A photo of the event in a local newspaper confirmed that, but others taken outside of the stadium showed students posing for photographs side-by-side without face masks.
Dowell said she contacted Levine’s office after finding out about the positive virus case at commencement. She said she was not permitted to reveal whether the positive case was a student, staff member or someone seated in the audience.
She also said the district is moving forward to reopening its schools in August under state guidelines.
“The next two months are going to be a long two months,” Dowell said.
Levine also urged those at commencement to take their temperatures daily, monitor their symptoms and practice social distancing.