14 infected in coronavirus outbreak at Jerusalem preschool

At least eight children, three parents and three staff members tested positive.

An ultra-Orthodox woman accompanies her daughter to school, Jerusalem, October 19, 2020 (photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)
An ultra-Orthodox woman accompanies her daughter to school, Jerusalem, October 19, 2020
(photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)
An outbreak of the coronavirus at a Jerusalem preschool in the Katamon neighborhood in late November caused children, their families and staff to go into isolation for 12 days, according to a source connected to the school.
At least eight children, three parents and three staff members at Gan Renana, a preschool with around 30 pupils that serves the national religious community, tested positive for the virus. A substitute teacher was the first to test positive and the rest of the staff and families of the children were notified on November 26 and told to go into quarantine. It was an unusual case in which a teacher infected children and not the reverse, which is believed to be a much more common scenario.
All the children reportedly felt fine but the teachers experienced mild symptoms. While most of those connected to the preschool initially tested negative, several received a positive result when their second test came back on Sunday. Those who have tested negative twice will be released from quarantine Monday night.
Preschools have been closed down temporarily due to outbreaks in a number of Jerusalem neighborhoods, including Sanhedria and at the Variety preschool in Sha’arei Hessed since the pandemic began. On October 18, the Jerusalem Municipality announced that preschools run by the Municipality would operate on a five-day schedule and would not open on Fridays. This was done so that there would be no need to have a substitute preschool teacher one day a week, since many of them work in many different schools, which would make for a higher chance that one might spread the infection, as apparently happened at the Katamon preschool.
There have been more than 330 reported cases of the coronavirus nationally in preschools and kindergartens around the country, following the reopening of the preschool system in mid-October. By late October, 56 preschools had been closed due to virus outbreaks. Preschool children were allowed back to school in classes of 35 and were not required to be in capsules.
The teachers’ union and parents groups have complained in recent months that the Education Ministry has not released complete and accurate data about the spread of the virus throughout the preschool system.
According to health experts, children of preschool age are the least likely to become seriously ill if they contract the virus or even to exhibit symptoms. The more worrisome danger is that they may transmit the virus to adults from high-risk groups, but there is conflicting evidence as to how often this happens.
A beloved kindergarten teacher from Petah Tikva, 64-year-old Shalva Zalfreind, passed away in July after contracting coronavirus. In a Whatsapp group chat with parents of her pupils, she blamed families for not going into isolation following exposure to someone infected with the virus.
“Unfortunately, there were those who preferred to send the child to kindergarten out of a feeling of Israeli ‘trust,’ while fatally damaging an important value of ‘mutual responsibility’ and ‘[Thou shalt not] stand idly by the blood of thy neighbor’ [Leviticus 19:16],” Zalfreind wrote. “For me, it no longer matters who I contracted [the virus] from and who violated isolation. I just beg and ask for the grandparents, neighbors and older uncles who surround us and do not deserve to die, even if they have such and such preexisting medical conditions.”
The largest school outbreak was not at a preschool but at a high school – the Gymnasia Rehavia in Jerusalem in the spring – where more than 170 students and staff members tested positive for the virus. Experts say that high school students become infected much more frequently than young children. The school received criticism in late July for holding a graduation party in spite of the outbreak. It has since reopened.
Jerusalem Post Staff contributed to this report.