What Happens When a Classroom Teacher or Student Tests Positive for COVID-19 in Kent County?

What Happens if a Classroom Teacher or Student Tests Positive for COVID 19 in Kent County

COVID-19 Will Likely Make an Appearance in Local Classrooms. What Happens Then?

As Kent County school districts reveal plans involving face-to-face instruction, questions from parents are stacking up.

Parents want to know how different COVID scenarios will be handled, all while facing decision deadlines on the type of instruction – virtual or in-person – they want in the fall.

Understanding how schools will handle the inevitable teacher or student COVID case is vital information for parents making these decisions. Indeed, multiple scenarios (outlined below) involve students or staff being removed from school for extended periods of time. If school removal for health reasons occurs, how will the school district handle continuity of education for those in quarantine? This, and other questions like it, have yet to be addressed by local school districts.

What we do know is that schools in Kent County will likely follow guidelines set forth by the Kent County Health Department included in their 15-page COVID-19 Toolkit and FAQs section.

Joann Hoganson,  MSN, RN, and Community Wellness Division Director at the Kent County Health Department, provided us with information for this article as well.

Back-to-School During COVID-19

Health Dept Plan Includes

  • How schools will do contact tracing
  • How schools will communicate with parents
  • Action steps for school scenarios
  • Isolation/quarantine details
  • FAQS
FAQs

IF YOU TEST POSITIVE, HOW LONG ARE YOU HOME?

KCHD Recommended Steps for People that Test Positive

The way a school should react to a student or staff member’s positive COVID-19 test depends on the circumstances surrounding the event.

Variables such as the length of exposure and the proximity to the positive person will be taken into account.

Given that, the Kent County Health Department has addressed possible scenarios that would require students or staff to remain out of school for extended periods of time.

Scenario: The Teacher Tests Positive

Result: The Whole Classroom Quarantines for 14 Days

If a teacher involved in face-to-face instruction finds out that they had COVID-19 while teaching, all of the children who were in the classroom must quarantine for 14 days and monitor for symptoms.

The children are considered close contacts in this situation, even if the teacher and students were wearing masks.

In this scenario, the teacher would need to practice isolation. KCHD defines isolation as being “for people who are COVID positive. It separates people who are infected with the virus from people who are not infected. It usually lasts 10 days.” The teacher can return to school after 24 hours with no fever, and respiratory symptoms have improved. Additionally, 10 days must have passed since the onset of symptoms.

Scenario: Student/Staff Member is Living with Someone Who Tested Positive

Result: The Individual is Out of School for at least 24 Days

When a student of staff member learns that one of the people living in their home tests positive for COVID-19, that person must stay out of school for at least 24 days.

This time encompasses the total time the family member is in isolation (usually around 10 days) plus an additional 14 days of quarantine.

This applies to people that asymptomatic as well. People without symptoms can still spread the virus and must observe the same isolation and quarantine protocols as someone who is portraying symptoms.

Scenario: You Think Your Student Has a Cold

Result: Don’t Come Back Until You Test Negative

What happens if you think your child just has a cold?

Unfortunately, it’s impossible to tell if symptoms are due to the common cold or COVID-19 just by looking at someone.

If a student is showing any COVID-19 related symptoms, they should not go to school until they have gotten a COVID-19 test. Consult your physician for information on obtaining tests for your student or family members.

The student can return to class 24 hours after testing negative for COVID-19.

Hoganson explains, ” When a person believes they have been exposed to COVID-19, they may choose to be tested.  This does not change the requirement to quarantine unless they test positive, and then they enter isolation.  If a person has symptoms, they should get tested.  The best way to get tested is to call your health care provider.”

The Kent County Health Department provides free testing (no cost to the person being tested although insurance will be billed if the person has insurance.)

These tests are drive-in or walk-in.  The locations and days/times can be found at https://www.accesskent.com/Health/covid-19-testing.htm

WHAT SCHOOLS ARE ADVISED TO DO

School Guidlines

If a student or staff member within a school system test positive for COVID-19, it is up to the school system to do contract tracing and notifications within their system.

The Kent County Health Department offers guidance for these steps. The health department handles contract tracing and notifications that happen outside of the school organization.

Contract Tracing

School officials are being asked to identify those who may have been in close contact with a confirmed case of COVID-19. Once close contacts are determined, they will be asked to quarantine, whether or not that person shows symptoms.

According to Hoganson, “The school is responsible to notify families when there has been a known case of COVID-19 in the school.  No names will be shared and steps will be taken to protect the identity of the person who is infected.  After that, an investigation will be done by the Kent County Health Department Contact Tracers and those who are identified as “close contacts” will be advised by the KCHD of their need to enter quarantine. Only those who must know because they meet the CDC definition of “close contact” will know the identity of the person who has COVID-19.  The person who has COVID-19 will be required to isolate, and the people who were close contacts will have to be quarantined for 14 days from the last exposure.”

Contact tracing is made easier when classes are kept in small, isolated groups, such as cohorts.

This is more of a challenge at the upper-grade levels where class switching mixes the population more often.

contract tracing kent county health department

The COVID-19 Letter

School officials will likely use the Kent County Health Department’s guidance to notify families in a school building when there has been a COVID-19 exposure. The school is responsible for communication with families of students.

The health department has provided form letters for schools to customize, one of which reads like this:

“We recently became aware of a [staff member/student/child] in our [school/childcare] setting that tested positive for COVID-19. We found out on [Insert
Date Here] that the test came back positive. We are responsible for informing all [staff member/students/child(ren)] who are considered “close contacts” by the CDC guidelines. If you are required to quarantine because of an exposure, we will contact you.

If your [student/child] does not qualify as a close contact, you will not hear from us. We want to protect the confidentiality of this person unless there is a reason to inform you of this person’s identity. At this time, it is our role to tell all the families of [Insert School/Program Name Here] that we are moving forward under the guidance of the Kent County Health Department and that all measures have been taken to protect the wellbeing of your child(ren). Please monitor for onset of symptoms related to COVID-19, including fever, cough, difficulty breathing, headache, or new fatigue. If you note any change in the health of your child, please call your regular medical provider.”

HEALTH DEPARTMENT OUTREACH

In the health department’s quest to locate people that have been exposed to the virus, contact tracers will reach out by phone.

Hoganson explains, “When a contact tracer calls a family to let them know that someone is a close contact and must enter quarantine,  they may leave a message on the phone asking the person to call back.  They do not leave personal health information on voice mail.”

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