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Modified Quarantine Will Keep Kids Safe, And In School
Modified Quarantine Will Keep Kids Safe, And In School
Jim Goracke
Wednesday, November 11, 2020

With approval from the Rice County Health Department we have begun to institute a “modified quarantine” for students identified as close contacts of a covid positive person when the exposure has happened at school and both parties were properly masked. Students that qualify for the modified quarantine are under county mandated quarantine outside of school, but can attend school with additional precautions. The additional precautions include: frequent health checks by our health staff during the day, separate eating area, separate restroom area, increased monitoring of mask compliance, and seating 6’ away from others where feasible. 

We feel it is in the best interests of our students to keep them in school whenever it can be done safely. Because only students that are properly masked when the exposure occurred at school are eligible for modified quarantine the risk that they would be infected is very low. With the increased monitoring for symptoms and safety compliance the risk that a modified quarantine student would pass it on to someone else at school would be even lower. That slight risk is outweighed by the impact of keeping a significant number of our students out of school for weeks at a time, or a switch to remote leaning. The procedures in place have proven effective this week in quickly identifying students that may develop symptoms and moving them to full quarantine. While none of those students have tested positive, it has shown our ability to stay on top of the situation.  Keeping our kids safe is our number one priority. We believe this plan keeps them physically safe, while also taking care of their mental, social, emotional, and academic needs. 

A few key points:

  • Students in close contact while not wearing a mask would not be eligible (i.e. athletic practice)

  • Students that do not consistently wear their mask properly (up and over their nose) would not be eligible

  • Students on modified quarantine may attend activity practice to watch while masked and at least 6 feet from others. They would not be able to participate.

  • Modified quarantine students that do not meet the heightened requirements will have their modified status revoked. It is not quite zero tolerance, but pretty close. 

  • The health department is continually evaluating the situation in our school and county. This plan may be changed or revoked at any time. 

  • Any parent that feels like this is unsafe and would prefer that their child move to remote learning may do so. Parents of children that are in the same class as a positive student will receive notice, and if there was a positive student you may assume there will be modified quarantine students in that class the following day. 

I’d like to end by encouraging everyone in our community to follow the guidelines endorsed by medical professionals. Wear a mask, distance when possible, and avoid large groups. This modified quarantine plan will allow us to stay in school longer, but if the numbers in our safe little town continue to rise we will be forced to move into a hybrid model, then to full remote, and finally, possible closure. We have put precautions in place and developed good procedures for sanitation, prevention, and monitoring but if things get out of control in our community it is going to be all for nothing. Going full remote will put a huge strain on our parents and community so we are doing all we can to avoid it.  However, we have less than a quarter of the people in our town for less than a quarter of the day. The whole community is going to have to pull together to keep our schools open through the coming months.


STERLING PUBLIC SCHOOLS MODIFIED QUARANTINE PROCEDURES

 This guide specifically addresses requirements around maintaining continuity of learning in the situation where students and staff in a classroom are exposed to COVID-19; namely the modified quarantine requirements for close contacts of a case. This modified quarantine allows some students and staff members that are determined to be close contacts of a positive case to continue physically attending school during their quarantine period. These modified quarantine requirements are contingent on the close contacts of a case remaining asymptomatic. Each case must be approved by the RCHD and USD 376 administration for modified quarantine.

Background: COVID-19 is a respiratory disease caused by a coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) which spreads primarily through droplets generated when an infected person coughs or sneezes, or through droplets of saliva or discharge from the nose. Studies show that asymptomatic people and people in the pre-symptomatic phase (2-3 days before symptoms begin) can also be a source of infection. The most common symptoms of COVID-19 are fever and lower respiratory symptoms including coughing, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing. However, there are many other symptoms that may be associated with COVID-19 including chills, fatigue, muscle aches or body aches, headache, new loss of taste or smell, sore throat, congestion or runny nose, nausea or vomiting, and diarrhea. The elderly and people with underlying medical problems such as high blood pressure, heart problems or diabetes, or chronic respiratory conditions, are at a greater risk of serious illness from COVID-19. 

Schools are an important part of the infrastructure of communities, as they provide safe, supportive learning environments for students, employ teachers and other staff, and enable parents, guardians, and caregivers to work. The unique and critical role that schools play makes them a priority for opening and remaining open, enabling students to receive academic instruction and support as well as critical services. 

Current Isolation and Quarantine Requirements: 

A Person Under Investigation (PUI) is suspected of having COVID-19 disease. A person who is being tested for COVID-19 is required to be in isolation until test results are received. Possible outcomes of the test result include: 

1) positive test result, then the person becomes a case and must finish the full quarantine 

2) negative test result and the person has a known exposure, then the person must finish their    14- day quarantine 

3) negative test result and there was no known exposure, then the person is released from isolation. 

Symptomatic cases are released from isolation 10 days after symptom onset or 72 hours fever free without the use of medication and significant improvement in symptoms, whichever is longer. Meaning, symptomatic cases are in isolation for a minimum of 10 days. Asymptomatic cases are released from isolation 10 days after their positive sample was collected, as long as they remain asymptomatic. If they become symptomatic during the 10 days, then they would begin a new isolation period using the criteria for symptomatic cases. 

Close contacts of a confirmed case are in quarantine for 14 days after their last contact with a case while the case was infectious. A symptomatic case is considered infectious starting two days before the onset of their first symptom until they are released from isolation. An asymptomatic case is considered infectious starting two days before the date their positive sample was collected until they are released from isolation. 

Defining A Close Contact: 

A close contact is someone who has been within 6 feet of a case for 10 minutes or more or had direct contact with bodily secretions (for example, being coughed or sneezed on). Any students or staff that maintained a 6- foot distance from the positive case would not be considered close contacts and would therefore not be subject to the 14-day quarantine period. 

If the positive case, or close contacts, or both, always wore cloth facemasks this reduces the risk of developing COVID-19 disease. However, the use of cloth facemasks does not eliminate the risk completely; therefore, close contacts would still be subject to a 14-day quarantine. Any one that wore appropriate PPE, such as a fit-tested N95 mask with protective eyewear would not be considered close contact.

The time for close contact tracing includes any day(s) the positive student or staff attended school or school related activities and the preceding 48 hours prior to symptom onset (symptomatic cases) or the preceding 48 hours prior to sample collection (asymptomatic cases). Household contacts of a case are required to complete quarantine for 14 days after their last contact with a case while the case was infectious and do not qualify for modified quarantine. Students and staff are only eligible for modified quarantine if both the positive case and the close contact were wearing a face covering the entire time that they were within 6 feet.

Modified Quarantine Requirements: 

These modified quarantine requirements are contingent on the close contacts of a case remaining asymptomatic. Each case must be approved by the RCHD and USD 376 administration for modified quarantine.

Students and staff who have had an exposure but remain asymptomatic should adhere to the following practices prior to and during the school day: 

  • Transportation: The school will require that students and staff on modified quarantine commute to school and school activities separately. No school transportation will be provided.

  • Arrival and dismissal times: Students and staff on modified quarantine may arrive at and leave school among the other students and staff but are required to wear a mask.

  •  Pre-screen: Modified quarantine students and staff will undergo pre-screening by the school. We also ask that parents/guardians also monitor for symptoms at home. Please refer to the symptom checklist. Notify the school nurse of any symptoms that develop and stay home. 

  • Medical check-in: Modified quarantine students and staff will be checked daily by school personnel. They will be checked for symptoms and temperature. If the quarantined student or staff becomes sick during the day, they should be sent home immediately. Surfaces in their workspace should be cleaned and disinfected. Anyone who develops illness compatible with COVID-19 during the quarantine period should notify the school nurse or school administration who will work with the local health department to arrange for testing. 

  • Wear a mask: Modified quarantine students and staff will always wear a facemask/face covering while in the school buildings.

  • Physical separation: When able, modified quarantine students and staff should be physically separated from the general school population through groupings, classroom arrangements, and assigned seating as directed by school administration. 

  • Bathrooms: Modified quarantine students and staff may be directed to a designated bathroom by staff. As this is often not feasible, school staff will be increasing cleaning times and all students and staff are encouraged to continue good hand washing and appropriate hygiene. 

  • Lunch: Modified quarantine students and staff may be directed to a designated lunch location/area by staff. 

  • School activities: Modified quarantine students and staff may participate in activities only if they can wear a face mask AND maintain 6 feet of distance at ALL times.

  • Outside of school: Modified quarantine students and staff will need to follow the guidance of the Rice County Health Department for Quarantine rules and status. Any violation of the county’s quarantine rules will result in revocation of the modified quarantine and the student/staff member will have to go into full quarantine.