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Bishop Gorman COVID-19 cases linked to off-campus gatherings

Bishop Gorman High School reported a total of eight COVID-19 cases Wednesday and Thursday, which school officials say are linked to two off-campus student gatherings.

The private Catholic school in Las Vegas, which has about 1,500 students, is offering full-time in-person instruction and a fully remote option with real-time instruction for families who want it amid the pandemic.

In a Thursday letter to parents and students, which was released to the Review-Journal, Bishop Gorman President John Kilduff and Principal Kevin Kiefer announced the school was notified of six COVID-19 cases Thursday. Five of those were among individuals who had been on campus.

“Preliminary contact tracing indicates that these cases originated at two off-campus student gatherings and these cases do appear to be related to the ones we reported yesterday,” they wrote, noting two cases were reported Wednesday. “There is currently no evidence suggesting that any transmission has occurred while on campus.”

School officials have gone to great lengths to protect students and employees “with exceptional success,” according to the message. “It appears all of these efforts may have been negatively affected by the behavior and actions of certain students outside our campus environment. Such action puts our students, their families, and our faculty/staff at risk.”

School officials received a tip Thursday about a “sophomore party” slated for that night in the Southern Highlands including more than 70 Bishop Gorman students and public school students, Kilduff and Kiefer wrote. “These types of events are completely irresponsible and in direct opposition to mitigation efforts.”

The school is considering possible disciplinary action for students who aren’t following COVID-19-related public health requirements or guidelines.

“Large numbers of COVID-19 positives, even originating off campus, may result in the closure of the entire school,” according to the message.

University of Nevada, Reno, issued a couple of messages earlier this fall about COVID-19 case numbers among students and the link with off-campus parties. Earlier this month, the university announced all classes after Thanksgiving break will switch to remote instruction for the rest of the fall semester.

Bishop Gorman hasn’t seen any cases resulting from on-campus exposure, according to a Thursday night statement from Roman Catholic Diocese of Las Vegas spokeswoman Rachel Wilkinson to the Review-Journal. “Unfortunately, there has been a great deal of misinformation and speculation circulated. As a result, the decision was made that while we will continue communicating transparently with our community, we will not be confirming tips that have been provided to the media from outside sources about potential positives.”

The school declined to provide cumulative case numbers since school started in August.

“We recognize the interest in the total number of positive cases on our campus, but have come to learn through this process, that a singular number does not give an accurate picture of what is happening on campus and has perpetuated erroneous conclusions,” according to the statement Thursday.

In September, officials for the diocese — which oversees seven elementary/middle schools and Bishop Gorman — told the Review-Journal nine total COVID-19 cases were reported (six among employees and three among students) during the first six weeks of school among all eight campuses.

Case numbers across all diocese schools remains low and none have been the result of on-campus exposure, according to a Monday statement provided by Wilkinson to the Review-Journal.

All cases have been reported to the Southern Nevada Health District and the diocese’s schools “have received no instruction to add to or adjust current mitigation efforts,” according to the statement, and there aren’t any plans at this point to change the five-day-a-week in-person learning model.

Southern Nevada Health District continues to work with private and public schools in regard to COVID-19 cases and mitigation efforts, spokeswoman Stephanie Bethel said in a Monday email to the Review-Journal. “We are not providing specific case information by location.”

Contact Julie Wootton-Greener at jgreener@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2921. Follow @julieswootton on Twitter.

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