Teen party source of Saratoga Springs High COVID-19 outbreak

SARATOGA SPRINGS – A COVID-19 outbreak at Saratoga Springs High School, which forced instruction to go remote Friday and put football and boys volleyball games on pause, appears to be a result of a teen get-together in Lake George.

On Tuesday, Board of Education President Anjeanette Emeka said the outbreak from the gathering, which she “thinks was a party” was “out of the school’s control.”

While Emeka said she doesn’t know when or where the gathering took place, Warren County spokesman Don Lehman said his county’s health department was contacted last week by Saratoga County Public Health Services about a group of young people getting together in Lake George.

“We were told it involved young people from Saratoga County and that numerous people who were present subsequently became ill with COVID-19,” Lehman said in a statement. “The exact location of the party was not passed on to us, as there appears to be no Warren County resident COVID cases that have stemmed from this gathering, or Warren County residents who were in attendance.”

Lehman also said the date of the party was not disclosed to Warren County officials, but he believes it took place on the weekend of April 10. The state’s school COVID-19 tracker says 23 students and one teacher at Saratoga High tested positive for COVID-19 between April 14 and April 20. That represents nearly a fifth of all cases the high school has seen since September, which have totaled 126. It’s unclear how many of the 23 student cases are directly linked to the gathering.

“It’s unfortunate,” Emeka said.  “It’s disappointing. But we can’t discipline students for their actions outside of the school.” 

The district, meanwhile, has provided little communication to parents and other students about the nature of the outbreak, other than it led  instruction to go remote and to suspend athletic events. All boys volleyball games have been canceled, according to the district’s schedule, and there is one football game scheduled for April 26 against Schenectady.

“The district does not have a comment on a source, and we cannot confirm personally identifiable information as it relates to confirmed cases,” said district spokeswoman Maura Manny. She added football and volleyball are on pause because of contact tracing that needed to be done.

Saratoga County health officials also released a statement assuring that contract tracing is ongoing.

“All cases have been isolated and all elicited contacts quarantined,” the statement read. “No additional cases have been reported this week.”

This is not the first time a party shut down a school. On Dec. 18, 2020, a super-spreader party at a home of two teachers closed Glens Falls City Schools. It is unclear if the teachers, an elementary reading teacher at Glens Falls and a middle school gym teacher in Ballston Spa Central Schools, were disciplined by their districts. Both parents said they knew nothing about the party at their home in Wilton. However, the Sheriff’s Office said that at least one parent was home at the time of the party that infected at least 17 with COVID-19. No charges have been filed against the teachers, the Sheriff’s Office, which investigated the party, said on Wednesday.

Emeka said that the district is fully cooperating with the health department and that the district is hoping that students stay virus-free so that they can enjoy graduation this year.

“Everything the district is doing has the eye on the ball for these seniors who are trying to graduate,” Emeka said. “We want so badly to have them allowed to participate in the normal senior activities as possible. We are really working hard to make that happen, you know. I put out a plea for our community to be vigilant so we can stay open and celebrate these kids the way they deserve.”