For the second time in less than two weeks, a church child care center in Decatur closed down Tuesday due to a positive coronavirus test.

First Grace Child Development Center at First United Methodist Church closed Tuesday after an adult working in its preschool program received a positive result from a coronavirus test, according to senior pastor Rev. Hughey Reynolds.

The news comes in the midst of a significant spike in confirmed COVID-19 cases in Morgan County. While numbers increased very slowly from the first case on March 25 through May 19, they are now doubling about every 10 days. Over the last week, the county has averaged 13 new cases per day. Morgan County had 296 confirmed cases as of Tuesday evening, and Decatur Morgan Hospital had 11 inpatients who had tested positive for COVID-19.  

Reynolds said the infected child care worker had been with someone over the Memorial Day weekend and learned that person tested positive. The worker was at the preschool the day after Memorial Day, but not after that.

“They went immediately to be tested and reported it to the (preschool) director immediately, so there was limited exposure to one class,” Reynolds said. “Everyone was wearing a mask, except children of course don’t wear a mask. We feel like the exposure was limited.”

The test results did not come back until Monday, he said.

Reynolds said he was not sure how many children and staff were in direct contact with the infected adult, but there was a maximum of eight children and three teachers in the classroom May 26. He suspected fewer children than that were in the classroom because some children had not returned after the holiday.

Complicating the task of determining who might have been exposed, he said, was that the preschool had “move-up day” Monday, when children graduate from one classroom and one set of teachers to the next, before they found out the worker had tested positive.

“Because there were move-ups then it would expose others, perhaps, so we decided it was best not just to close down the classes we knew were affected, but three or four other classes also,” Reynolds said. “With contact tracing we found, you know, it’s complicated. You know how kudzu grows? We find that this child had a sibling or this teacher had a child in another class.

"The teachers were all in masks, but if you have three teachers in one room, suddenly it expands. Those teachers go home and it gets complicated. So we decided, let’s do the thing that’s safest for our people.”

Reynolds said those involved in the preschool were notified of its closure by email Monday.

“First Grace has had its first confirmed case of COVID-19,” said the email that was sent out. “The exposure was limited to (May 26) and all those with significant contact already have been notified per our procedures. The Alabama Department of Public Health has been notified and confirmed that we have taken all necessary precautions. However, out of an abundance of caution, as our school move-ups took place on June 1, the First Grace Board has chosen to close First Grace until Wednesday June 10th.”

Central Park Baptist

The church day care at Central Park Baptist Church closed May 20 after an infant tested positive.

Pastor Matt Haines said Tuesday he knows of three other people associated with the day care who later tested positive, one infant and two teachers.

“We had a teacher in that infant room that tested positive. She just went and got the test done as a precaution and tested positive. She’s had another test in the last couple days and we’re waiting on the results from that. We expect her to test negative since she’s already been through 14 days of it now,” Haines said.

Another teacher, who was the parent of one of the infected infants, also tested positive. A recent follow-up test came back negative, Haines said.

“So we had two teachers, one being the parent of one of the infants, and two infants who tested positive. But nobody else, and nobody has tested positive in basically the last two weeks,” Haines said.

None of the four became seriously ill, he said.

“Everybody’s doing well. My understanding was that the two infants that tested positive really only had a fever for a day or so. They did not have any real sickness or side effects after that,” Haines said. “The two teachers had some coughing and some mild respiratory type symptoms. They were given some medication by the doctor and both seem to be doing fine right now.”

He said the day care will reopen Monday, with safety protocols in place.

Dr. Michael Saag, director of the Division of Infectious Diseases at UAB School of Medicine, said most children who test positive do not develop a serious illness, but they spread the disease for days before any symptoms develop.

“Whether the child has symptoms or not, there’s a period of time — estimated at about seven days, maybe 10 days — where they will be distributing infectious virus into the environment,” Saag said last month. “The peak time of transmissibility — that is, the peak time when somebody who’s infected with this virus spews out the most amount of virus to the environment — is in the 24-hour period prior to getting sick.”

The most serious risk to children is a rare condition called pediatric inflammatory multisystem syndrome (PIMS). Dr. Ali Hassoun, an infectious disease specialist at Huntsville Hospital, said PIMS involves the body’s response to the virus, not the virus itself.

“It’s the after-effect of the infection, meaning the infection is gone but because their immune response is very robust, they’ll get some of these symptoms attacking their heart, their circulation and stuff like that,” Hassoun said last month.

According to the Alabama Department of Public Health, symptoms of COVID-19 may appear two to 14 days after exposure, with most people developing symptoms within seven days. The most common symptoms:

• Cough

• Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing

• Fever

• Chills

• Muscle pain

• Sore throat

• Loss of taste or smell

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eric@decaturdaily.com or 256-340-2435. Twitter @DD_Fleischauer.

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