Covid outbreak temporarily closes Boys & Girls Club in Ontario

Dana Castellani, the executive director for the Boys & Girls Club of Western Treasure Valley. (The Enterprise/Pat Caldwell)

ONTARIO – The Boys and Girls Clubs of Western Treasure Valley’s Ontario clubhouse has temporarily shut down because of a reported outbreak of Covid. The Ontario operation will likely be shut until Monday, Aug. 16.

Dana Castellani, Boys and Girls Clubs CEO in Ontario, said Friday that the organization had found out about the outbreak through a call Tuesday, Aug. 3, from the Malheur County Health Department. The club members with Covid had attended programming earlier that day.

The outbreak included students in all three age groups – grades 1-3, grades 4-6, and grades 7-12 – served at the Ontario Clubhouse, meaning that Clubhouse staff had to contact “probably over 100 youth” as part of their internal contact tracing. Castellani said that the health department had told her they would follow up with families as part of their own case investigation process, and tell them if they needed to quarantine or be tested.

The Boys and Girls Club is “a mission based organization,” said Castellani. 

“Everything we do at both clubhouses is geared toward serving the many many kids who need us,” she said. 

That service takes place through summer programming geared at building character and leadership, academic success, and healthy lifestyles for the students. 

After students leave each day, the building is completely sanitized. Castellani said that earlier this year, she had removed all the carpeting in the building and replaced it with floors that could also be sanitized. 

Sarah Poe, Malheur County Health Department director, explained that in circumstances involving children, two or more linked cases qualify as an outbreak. She said that because the official data is yet to be released by the Oregon Health Authority, she couldn’t say how many cases were involved in the outbreak. That next state report on outbreaks will become available Wednesday, Aug. 11. 

Castellani said that the clubhouse at 573 SW 3rd Avenue in Ontario will likely remain closed until Monday, Aug. 16, the end of the quarantine period for the children and staff who were exposed to Covid. 

In the meantime, she said, children who are not recommended to quarantine by the health department “can certainly attend in Payette, if they can get themselves to that clubhouse. That clubhouse does have room.”

Approximately 70 to 95 kids a day are served by the Ontario clubhouse when it is fully operational, but Castellani said that likely many of those children would be asked to quarantine by the health department. 

Poe said that despite the intimidating name, identifying Covid outbreaks was actually a positive thing for Covid contact tracing efforts.  

“Outbreaks are actually helpful when we’re investigating to know where somebody got sick,” she said. “Without outbreaks we just have community spread.”

Poe said that multiple outbreaks had been identified during the week of Aug. 2. 

She said that while weekly case counts were higher than in recent months, they remain lower than at this time last year, and that vaccination continues to be the county’s best hope at staving off the Delta variant. 

News tip? Contact reporter Liliana Frankel at [email protected] or 267-981-5577.

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