WESTERLY — A Westerly High School food service worker has tested positive for COVID-19 but is not believed to have been in close contact with students or other staff, according to school district officials.

The worker is employed by Aramark, a company that provides food services to the school district under a contract and is assigned to the high school. Superintendent of Schools Mark Garceau informed students, families and school staff of the positive case through an email late Thursday afternoon.

On Friday, Garceau said he learned of the positive case Thursday at about 2 p.m. after a manager for Aramark informed him that she had been contacted by the state Department of Health and told that the worker had tested positive. Since learning of the case, Garceau said he has been in contact with state Department of Health officials.

"We have no reason to believe — and the state Department of Health concurs — that any Westerly High School students or staff are to be considered close contacts of this individual," Garceau wrote in the email.

Close contact, Garceau explained in the email, means being within 6 feet of someone with COVID-19 for 15 minutes or longer. To be safe, Garceau said, all school staff and students should watch for symptoms of COVID-19. The symptoms can include a cough, fever and chills, muscle and body aches, headache, runny nose or stuffy nose, sore throat, nausea or vomiting, diarrhea, fatigue, and recent loss of taste or smell. Children usually experience symptoms that are milder than adults.

Garceau said attendance Friday for in-person learning by both students and staff did not seem to have been affected by the announcement of the worker having tested positive.

The positive case is the first one related to Westerly schools since in-person learning resumed Sept. 14.

"We knew there would be positive cases. The goal is to keep it under control and follow the protocols the state Department of Health has set out," Garceau said.

The district wishes a speedy recovery for the worker who tested positive, Garceau said.

A state Department of Health spokeswoman said Friday she could not comment directly on the case.

"Generally speaking, with any confirmed positive case of COVID-19, the department's team does extensive case investigation and contact tracing. The team identifies close contacts, and close contacts are instructed to quarantine and watch for any symptoms. We tell any identified close contact that if they develop symptoms of COVID-19 while in quarantine, they should call their health care provider and get a COVID-19 test," Annemarie Beardsworth, the spokeswoman, said.

In Pawcatuck, the Pizza Lady restaurant, a takeout only facility on Liberty Street, announced on Facebook Thursday that it was closing because "there was a recent COVID-19 exposure among our small crew." According to the announcement, restaurant staff members are being tested and the facility will reopen once staff test results come back negative.

"When all have received negative test results, we will re-open. Please be assured that our crew follows all COVID-related health and sanitation protocols required by the state Department of Health and will continue to do so when we re-open," the message states.

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