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Truckee high school reports COVID-19 outbreak, 150 students quarantined

On Friday morning, Tahoe Truckee Unified School District recorded 20 active cases of COVID-19 at Truckee High School. The outbreak is the largest in the Tahoe Truckee school district, tripling the school's total number of cases since February, according to the district's COVID-19 dashboard.

School district officials confirmed the number of cases to SFGATE and said that approximately 150 students are under quarantine at home due to their exposure to people who have tested positive for COVID-19.

All of the COVID-19 cases originated from outside of the school, district officials said.

"We have incredible safety mitigation measures in place on all of our campuses to keep students and staff safe," the district said in a statement to SFGATE. "Truckee High School and our entire district (Tahoe Truckee Unified School District) have been reiterating the importance of practicing safe mitigation measures when off campus and we will continue to do so."

The Nevada County Public Health Department defines an outbreak as three or more cases in a 14-day period.

"Any time we have more than three cases in a given setting then it is considered an outbreak," said Ryan Gruver, director of health and human services at Nevada County. "We coordinate closely with whatever entity is involved to help tailor the response and support in any way that we can."

Gruver declined to comment directly on the cases at Truckee High School, but he noted that Nevada County currently has a higher rate of COVID-19 infections than the rest of California. Truckee's active case numbers are on the rise. Gruver said more transmissible variants of COVID-19 are likely "widespread at this point" in Truckee.

Truckee High School's 20 active COVID-19 cases accounts for nearly 19% of Nevada County's total. As of April 29, Nevada County has 108 active cases. In eastern Nevada County, which encompasses Truckee, 1,241 cases of COVID have been recorded, total. Nevada County is in the red tier, indicating "substantial" spread, according to California's COVID blueprint.

"We are not out of the woods yet when it comes to COVID," Gruver said. "At the same time as we're seeing continued significant COVID spread, we're also seeing, unfortunately, a decline in demand for the vaccine. That's occurring well before we've had enough people vaccinated to confer herd immunity."

More than a quarter of Nevada County residents have been fully vaccinated; nearly 70,000 doses have been administered as of Wednesday.

Gruver said appointments to get the vaccine in Truckee are readily available.

"I'd like to urge parents, if you have a 16- or 17-year-old, there are several locations where the Pfizer vaccine is available," Gruver said.

As of Friday, the only other school in the district with active cases of COVID-19 was North Tahoe School, grades 5-8, reporting two cases. The other schools in the district, including North Tahoe High School, had zero cases.

In a letter sent on Tuesday, Truckee High School Principal Logan Mallonee informed parents and guardians of students of the outbreak, noting that a "significant number" of Truckee High students are required to quarantine because they've been directly exposed to COVID-19.

At least 12% of students who opted for in-person learning, per the letter, are currently quarantined. The school reports a student body of around 780 students this year.

Most of the cases, Mallonee wrote, originated at gatherings outside of school, including house parties.

Mallonee and assistant principal John Neuberger did not immediately respond to requests for comment from SFGATE.

"There is not one particular event that has led to this separation," a spokesperson from the district said to SFGATE. "It's due to a variety of non-school-related activities."

Truckee High students who are under quarantine were asked in the letter to remain at home and cannot participate in any extracurricular activities at school. The letter did not specify how long students were required to quarantine if infected or if exposed to individuals who were.

Regionwide, Tahoe Truckee has been experiencing an uptick in COVID cases, possibly due to more transmissible variants of the virus, said Dr. Rob Oldham, director of Health and Human Services at Placer County, which borders Nevada County. Tahoe Truckee School District has campuses in both Nevada and Placer counties. Oldham noted that case numbers seem to be subsiding, overall.

"We have received more reports of the UK variant in the last few weeks," Oldham said in a statement to SFGATE.

"It's difficult to predict whether we're likely to see any tier movement prior to the state moving 'beyond the Blueprint' in June, but our hope is that as people begin to see more and more the positive outcomes from vaccination — reuniting with extended family, going to events, fewer business restrictions — that will help encourage broader vaccination in the community."

SFGATE contributing editor Julie Brown contributed to this story.

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