December 16, 2021
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QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
At this time, our community, state, and country are facing extreme challenges navigating the surge in positive COVID-19 cases across all age groups. A majority of cases have been identified in school-aged children. Our health care facilities are under significant strain.
On December 14th the District developed a new COVID Communication Pilot to alert families when a classmate of their child tests positive. This notification does not confirm that a student is a close contact - but it means families should be hyper-aware of any developing symptoms, to get tested if symptoms begin, and to be extra diligent with all risk mitigation efforts.
The volume of positive cases exceeds the district's capacity to effectively contact trace across all schools. In response to the growing concerns this surge raises and to answer questions that have been submitted through email, social media, and phone calls, we are providing responses to your frequently asked questions.
Additional questions can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Questions Added 12/23
Why can’t the District consider offering Remote Learning to address the recent surge in positive COVID cases?
The Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) and Governor Baker have been clear that only in-person teaching and learning will count toward the legally required 180-day school year in Massachusetts. Should there be an allowance for a shift to remote teaching and learning, which would also require impact bargaining with the Framingham Teachers Association, we will certainly consider that option.
What is the benefit of having my child vaccinated if I won’t be notified when I am technically a close contact?
Per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the benefits of getting vaccinated are as follows
COVID 19-vaccines can reduce the risk of getting and spreading COVID-19.
COVID-19 vaccines also help children and adults from getting seriously ill even if they do get COVID-19.
There are approximately 28 million children between the ages of 5 and 11 years old in the United States, and there have been nearly 2 million cases of COVID-19 within this age group during the pandemic. COVID-19 can make children very sick, require hospitalization, and some children have even died. Children with underlying medical conditions are more at risk for severe illness compared to children without underlying medical conditions.
Getting children ages 5 years and older vaccinated can help protect them from serious short- and long-term complications.
Getting everyone ages 5 years and older vaccinated can protect families and communities, including friends and family who are not eligible for vaccination and people at increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19.
What are the determining factors when closing a classroom?
While there isn’t a specific threshold, the District reviews the following factors when making the decision to close a classroom:
the number of positive COVID Cases in the classroom
the number of Close Contacts in the classroom
the amount of students who begin to develop symptoms after being identified as a close contact
I received an email with my child’s name and LASID - was this information shared with other people? How are you sending recipient-specific information to impacted families?
When a positive COVID case is identified, we then make a list of that person’s classes. We look up the schedule and create a list of classmates. In elementary schools, that generally means a homeroom. In middle and high school classes, that means identifying the roster of all students who share classes with the COVID-positive student. We upload a spreadsheet containing the intended recipients’ names and LASIDs and we use a mail-merge function within our Mass Notification System which inserts the student’s name and student’s LASID only when their parent/guardian is the recipient. In short, parents/guardians are not receiving letters with names or student IDs for anyone but their own child.
Questions added December 16th
Why does it take so long to get Pooled Testing results?
Pooled testing is a process. Our reporting of test results to families is contingent upon when we get the initial results back and how quickly we can process and communicate those results. For example - if a student participates in pool testing on Monday, results will be in late Tuesday or more likely on Wednesday, at which time a mobile testing unit is sent to the school to test those students in the positive pool. At that time two tests are done - the first is a rapid test (BINAX) which provides a result within 15 minutes and the other is a PCR that is sent to the lab. That lab result is then received within 48 hours or so, which can be Friday. So if your student is involved in pool testing on a later day of the week, results may be returned over week-end days. Please be aware that labs are taking longer due to the increased testing across the state.
How and why is FPS making the decision to communicate only with unvaccinated people?
Our decisions are informed by ongoing guidance and consultation with the Framingham Department of Public Health, Massachusetts Department of Public Health, and the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE). During the current surge of COVID cases, the decision to notify the most at risk individuals has been the focus of public health efforts. Fully vaccinated students and staff who are identified as close contacts are exempt from close contact testing and quarantine response protocols so long as they remain asymptomatic; however, fully vaccinated individuals are expected to monitor for symptoms for the 14 day-period after exposure.
With our pilot communication launched on December 14th, we are now notifying parents/guardians when there is a positive case in their child’s classroom, regardless of their child’s vaccine status. Staff members learn about positive cases through the contact tracing process.
I received the COVID Positive Classroom Notification for both of my kids, different grades and schools. Why are we not being told if they are close contact even if they are vaccinated?
As of November 14, we are providing a general notification letter to all families of a student with classroom exposure, regardless of vaccination status. This will allow all families to assess their own level of risk and determine next steps. If your child is unvaccinated and identified as a close contact, you will receive a “close contact” letter with steps you need to take to follow public health guidance, for example - test your child, monitor for symptoms, keep your child home from school if sick, and prevent the spread of COVID-19 in your family and the community. Due to the growing surge in COVID cases, we need to take steps to be as efficient as possible given the demands associated with testing and reporting at this time. This means that at this point, our efforts are focused on prioritizing unvaccinated individuals to address the population that is most at risk as we continue to be overwhelmed with the demands COVID.
How does FPS know that my child is vaccinated?
District school nurses have access to the MIIS (Massachusetts Immunization Information System) which is updated with all immunizations, including COVID Vaccination information.
The MIIS, is a confidential, web-based system that collects and tracks vaccination records for Massachusetts residents of all ages. This system shares data with medical practices, schools, and other delivery sites. MIIS is integrated with SNAP, our student electronic health record. We run weekly reports from SNAP to cull the COVID vaccine data of our students. This is the data that is on our COVID dashboard.
How is contact tracing useful if people, specifically vaccinated people, are excluded from receiving notification?
Contact tracing is considered a best practice by public health experts to identify, inform, and to quarantine close contacts. Because fully vaccinated close contacts are exempt from close contact testing in school and quarantine response protocols in the community, we launched the classroom notification pilot. This notification informs both vaccinated and unvaccinated students of a possible exposure. Our goal is to get back to notifying all close contacts. We are in the process of pursuing a 3rd party vendor to assist with increased tracing,
Why isn’t the District Contact Tracing ALL students, regardless of vaccination status?
The goal is absolutely to get to a place where we do provide contact tracing for all students - both vaccinated and unvaccinated. At this time, in the surge, there are simply too many cases to trace. It’s true that vaccinated individuals have some risk of getting COVID as well as potentially spreading it, however at a much lower rate than unvaccinated individuals.
It would be ideal to make Test and Stay available to all students, regardless of vaccination status, but DESE does not allow this for districts.
What is the District’s plan when everyone returns after Winter Break?
The District is actively pursuing a 3rd party vendor to assist with contact tracing. Beyond that, internally, we are reviewing post-Thanksgiving data and the increasing numbers of cases to determine an appropriate course of action. DESE will not allow for school closures.
The Framingham Department of Public Health is reaching out to residents who’ve been in close contact regardless of vaccination status - why can’t FPS do the same?
The Framingham Department of Public Health is facing their own challenges just like the school department. We are all dealing with the surge of cases and again are prioritizing communication to those at the highest risk.
My child is scheduled to get a Booster and one of the screening questions asks whether they have had a recent close contact. The new classroom exposure pilot does not say my child is a close contact and being vaccinated, I am not receiving communication. How should I answer this screening question?
The screening question is found on a MA form. You should talk to your vaccination provider about your particular circumstances and follow their guidance.
Since there is no pooled testing during the week of 12/20 - 12/23, how will the District communicate classroom exposures or close contacts before and during Winter Break?
All positive cases are tracked through the Massachusetts Virtual Epidemiological Network (MAVEN), a web-based disease surveillance and case management system that enables state and local health departments to capture lab results. Framingham DPH’’s contact tracers will identify the school age positive cases through MAVEN and reach out to the parents/guardians of these students.
If I get multiple Classroom Exposure emails, does that mean my child has had multiple possible exposures?
Yes. This is true for middle and high schools where students change classes and classmates throughout the day. We identify a positive case, look up the schedule, and send the classroom exposure email to all students who share classes with the COVID positive student. If you receive multiple emails, then your student is in classes with more than one COVID positive student and/or is in several classes with the same COVID positive student.
KEY TERMS AND DEFINITIONS
Routine COVID Pooled Testing and School-Based Follow-Up Testing: Shallow nasal swab samples are collected at school and put into a single tube (maximum of 10 samples per tube). If a group tests positive, individual Follow-Up testing with a second sample collection occurs at the school with BinaxNOW and/or individual PCR testing, as necessary.
Routine COVID Pooled Testing and Lab-Based Follow-Up Testing: Shallow nasal or saliva samples are collected and kept separate before being grouped at the lab. If a group tests positive, individual Follow-Up testing occurs at the lab, without a second sample collection. Individual test results are reported to the school.
Test and Stay: "Test and Stay" (close contact testing): Shallow nasal swab samples are collected at school using the BinaxNOW rapid antigen test or another approved diagnostic test. Tests are administered daily at school from the first day of exposure for at least five (5) days.
Close Contact: Close contacts are defined as individuals who have been within 6 feet of a COVID-19 positive individual while indoors, for at least 15 minutes during a 24-hour period.
Classroom Close Contacts: An individual who is exposed to a COVID-19 positive individual in the classroom while both individuals were masked, so long as the individuals were spaced at least 3 feet apart, is exempt from testing and quarantine response protocols.
PCR Test: The nose swab PCR test for COVID-19 is an accurate and reliable test for diagnosing COVID-19. A positive test means you likely have COVID-19. A negative test means you probably did not have COVID-19 at the time of the test.
PCR means polymerase chain reaction. It’s a test to detect genetic material from a specific organism, such as a virus. The test detects the presence of a virus if you have the virus at the time of the test. The test could also detect fragments of the virus even after you are no longer infected.
Pandemic: A pandemic is an epidemic of an infectious disease that has spread across a large region, for instance multiple continents or worldwide, affecting a substantial number of individuals. A widespread endemic disease with a stable number of infected individuals is not a pandemic.
Cluster: A cluster is defined as two or more laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 cases among individuals at the same location with onset of illness or if asymptomatic, a positive test result within a 14-day period, who have a potential connection in time and place at the site.
Community Spread: Community spread means people have been infected with the virus in an area, including some who are not sure how or where they became infected. Each health department determines community spread differently based on local conditions.
Incubation Period: The time between when a person is infected by a virus and when they notice symptoms. Estimates of the incubation period for COVID-19 range from 2-14 days, but doctors and researchers may adjust that as more data becomes available.
Asymptomatic: When a person is a carrier of an illness but does not show symptoms. People are thought to be most contagious for COVID-19 when they are most symptomatic, according to the CDC, although researchers are still investigating how its spread might be possible at other times, including during the incubation period (called “pre-symptomatic transmission”) and even after symptoms have resolved.
Social / Physical Distancing: Putting physical distance between yourself and other people. This means avoiding groups of people (parties, crowds on sidewalks, lines in a store) and maintaining distance (approximately 6 feet) from others when possible.
Self-isolation: A voluntary decision to remain at home and not go to work or school. The expectation is to limit your movements outside (you can go for a walk and go shopping, though) and monitor your health for 14 days after returning from travel to a place known to have high numbers of COVID-19 infections.
Self-monitoring: This simply means checking yourself for COVID-19 symptoms. If you notice symptoms, you should self-isolate and seek advice by telephone from a health care provider or local health department to determine whether you need a medical evaluation.
Fever 100 F or 37.7C or chills
Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
Muscle or body aches
New loss of taste or smell
Congestion or runny nose
Nausea or vomiting
Quarantine: Quarantine involves separating and restricting the movements of people who were exposed to a contagious disease to see if they become sick. The government may impose a quarantine on someone who was exposed to COVID-19 to avoid spread of the disease to others if they get sick.
Isolation: Isolation involves keeping people with confirmed cases of a contagious disease separated from people who are not sick. If you have a confirmed case of COVID-19, for example, you may be put into isolation for public health purposes—it may be voluntary or compelled by federal, state, or local public health orders.