COVID-19 cases linked to Halloween gathering prompt 2 Arlington Catholic schools to switch to remote learning

A Halloween gathering linked to more than a dozen positive coronavirus cases prompted two of the 41 schools within the Catholic Dioceses of Arlington to flip back to all virtual learning late Thursday. 

On Friday, officials at the dioceses confirmed with FOX 5 that the Halloween gathering is not the same event as the one that is currently being investigated in Montgomery County, Maryland, where, according to the county’s health department, 75 people were in attendance, 30 of whom are county residents and 15 have tested positive for the virus.

READ MORE: Montgomery County Halloween party linked to more than a dozen COVID-19 cases

Schools Superintendent Dr. Joe Vobach with Catholic Dioceses of Arlington said that 12 students from Bishop O'Connell High School tested positive after attending a non-school related and off-campus Halloween event gathering. Two others who tested positive are employees of the St. Thomas More School.

Vobach went on to explain that there is no evidence of community spread at either of the schools.

“Everybody is going into the buildings and the ability to continue to do that relies not only on what we do in the building but also what we do when we are not in the building,” Vobach said. “So the messaging has gone out to continue to remind people about that.”

Bishop O’Connell will stay virtual through Thanksgiving. St. Thomas More will return to in-person learning after November 17. 

FOX 5’s Ayesha Khan spoke with Dr. Clifford Mitchell, the director of the Environmental Health Bureau at the Maryland Department of Health, who discussed how health officials and law enforcement, along with the help of contact tracing, are trying to keep note of what might happen as families and friends gather for Thanksgiving and upcoming winter holidays.

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“In some cases, these are parties that people are doing that they are actually advertising either on Facebook or on social media,” said Mitchell. “And in some cases, those announcements become known to local authorities either to the health department or law enforcement. Depending upon the setting, there may be a couple of options available and in some cases, it’s private house parties where somebody who is holding a party in their own house is much more difficult.”

Meanwhile, Vobach did not elaborate where the Halloween gathering took place and that the case is being investigated by the public health department.

The same was true for Montgomery County, where health officials confirmed they came to know about the gathering from someone who attends a school in the District and had alerted health officials. The case is being investigated.