COVID-19 cluster under investigation at Collierville High School, hundreds told to quarantine

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - More than 300 people at Collierville High School have been told to quarantine by the Shelby County Health Department after eight confirmed cases of COVID-19 were identified by the school district in recent days.

In-person learning was also suspended for two weeks, with the district activating its contingency plan for remote learning at the high school.

An email from the district to parents over the weekend said the Shelby County Health Department is investigating a cluster of COVID-19 at Collierville High School. There are now eight confirmed cases, and 318 students, faculty and staff have been identified as close contacts and ordered to quarantine.

Collierville High’s Principal, Roger Jones, wrote in a communication to parents that because of the cluster status, the health department advised the district contact the parents and teachers of all individuals who shared a classroom or directly conversed with those who tested positive and ask them to quarantine for 14 days.

The numbers of cases and contacts at Collierville High have continued to grow after the district announced last Wednesday two football players tested positive for the virus, and two upcoming football games were called off.

By Friday afternoon, the district said five positive cases had been identified, and the high school would move to remote learning for two weeks. The principal’s email to parents over the weekend pushed that number to 8 confirmed cases by Saturday, with 318 close contacts identified.

“It’s not a big surprise this would happen in several locations. You hope it won’t happen in every school. Certainly it was a calculated risk to have people in-person classes,” Dr. Steve Threlkeld, an infectious disease specialist at Baptist, said.

Threlkeld said Monday he had no direct knowledge of the situation at Collierville High School, other than what he’d seen in media reports. He said the school cluster is not unexpected and encouraged those identified at risk to get tested.

“The numbers are what they are. I think it’s very helpful to quarantine the appropriate people and cast a fairly broad net with that,” he said, “Testing is crucial in knowing where this is going.”

Jean Fletcher’s daughter is a junior at Collierville High. She told WMC Action News 5 that the two-week switch to virtual learning is part of living through a pandemic.

“It’s a highly contagious virus, and we are just going to have to deal with it. I’m not upset about it,” she said.

The transition to remote learning is only in effect for Collierville High School. No other schools in the district are impacted by that decision.

The district declined an on-camera interview request by WMC Action News 5 on Monday.

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