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Superintendent: Vaccinated students have better chance of going to prom, graduation

East Lyme — A large number of quarantined individuals from East Lyme High School underscores the need for eligible students to get vaccinated so they don't miss important milestones like prom and graduation, according to Superintendent of Schools Jeffrey Newton.

Newton said Tuesday afternoon there were 52 people from the high school in quarantine because they were identified as close contacts of a student who recently tested positive for COVID-19.

"That's why we're encouraging all children 16 and above to get vaccinated," Newton said. "Because if they're not vaccinated and they end up having to quarantine during that time period, they could miss prom or miss graduation."

A close contact is defined as anyone who was within 6 feet of an infected person for at least 15 minutes starting two days before the onset of symptoms, according to the Ledge Light Health District.

A notice sent out to families and staff members on Sunday informed them the school was notified of the positive case over the weekend and that the student was last in the building on Friday.

At a drive-through vaccination clinic for teens held in Old Saybrook last week, Connecticut River Area Health District Director of Health Scott Martinson and public health nurse Sherry Carlson emphasized that getting fully vaccinated means students are no longer required to quarantine if they are a close contact of someone with COVID-19 — as long as they are two weeks past the second dose of the vaccine and are not exhibiting any symptoms.

Since there must be at least 17 days between injections, Martinson said, "now is the time" to get vaccinated if students want to be protected for the big end-of-the-year events.

Newton said the high school remains open. The district returned to a full, five-day-a-week schedule April 5. The school district had been operating under a hybrid learning model this year.

"Most staff members have been fully vaccinated, so that helps immensely because they don't have to quarantine," he said.

Plans for the senior prom are moving "full speed ahead" with a decision on the location expected this week, according to Newton. Graduation is set for Wednesday, June 16 (rain date: June 17) on the turf field. Officials are in the process of determining how many students and family members can "fit safely" in the space, he said.

The Associated Press reported Tuesday evening that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is expected to authorize Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine for children ages 12 to 15 by next week, according to a federal official and a person familiar with the process.

e.regan@theday.com

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