We need your help! As we continue to work toward solutions to keep as many students in front of as many teachers for as many days possible, one big area of challenge is Close Contact Tracing.

From the beginning of the school year until fall break, we identified 309 close contacts. Since fall break, we have identified 276 close contacts. All Close Contacts are issued a 14-day isolation. It is fairly typical that approximately 12 – 18 students are identified for each positive case, yet some cases have yielded over 40 or more identified close contacts.

While the number of positive cases have not been unexpected or surprised us, the quantity of close contact quarantines has been the most challenging and stressful to our school community. The keys to keeping the number of close contacts small are quick notification of positive test results and minimizing the number of days required to look for close contacts. We know our best source of information and communication comes from our families because that reporting occurs faster than the health department. Swift parental action has been a huge asset to the district as that allows our teams to quickly take preventative measures. Here are practical and important ways you can help us reduce the number of close contacts from each positive case:

  1. Please keep your student at home if symptomatic. The guidelines are to stay home for 10 days for COVID-level symptoms. Sometimes just taking one day at home will help parents or physicians determine if the symptoms are actually COVID level or not.

  2. If you are considering giving your child a COVID test or are awaiting the results of a COVID test, please keep your child at home until a determination is made and results are provided. Initially, the guidance from the health department was to not test until symptomatic. However, we are now seeing an increase in testing regardless of symptoms. At this time, we ask that you keep your student at home even if you choose to administer a test to your child without symptoms out of an abundance of caution.

  3. If your child has been in close contact with a person outside of the school environment who is positive, please take action and inform the school and keep your child home for 14 days. The close contact definition is proximity to an infected person for longer than 15 minutes and less than 6 feet with tracing beginning 48 hours prior to the onset of symptoms or a positive test. If you know your child is a close contact to an infected person, please take this action even if the Health Department never contacts you to officially identify your child as a close contact. The school will happily accept your parent report of Close Contact and will follow-up by providing digital instruction to your student for the 14-day isolation period.

  4. Immediately inform the school of all positive test results.

These actions are critical to COVID management at the school and district level. If the “possibly positive” student stays at home until the test results are provided, that eliminates all of those days for close contact tracing because for each positive case, we are required to look back 48 hours to identify close contacts based on the 6 foot/15 minute guidance. Our board policy 6.403 on communicable diseases (https://tsba.net/maryville-county-board-of-education-policy-manual/#students) provides directives for “no student with a communicable disease which may endanger the health of either himself/herself or other individuals shall enter or remain in the regular school setting.” As with the annual flu, the only chance we have to prevent spread is for sick kids and adults to stay home and for everyone to work as a team on proactive strategies.

  • Example: Student X show symptoms on Wednesday. Family keeps student at home to try and determine the level of symptoms and sickness. On Friday, the student is still showing symptoms, so the family tests the student. The student receives a positive test result on Saturday afternoon. In this case, the school would only have to contact trace for Monday and Tuesday instead of the entire week. If the student continued to attend school until results were provided to the family, the school would then have the burden to contact trace for five total days, affecting and disrupting an exponential amount of students.

We have updated our COVID Student Decision Tree to include the following language: Students should be kept home from school for the following reasons: positive COVID-19 test or awaiting test results. Also, please notify the school nurse if you are taking your child for a COVID-19 test. The decision tree is available on our website and posted below for your review. (https://bit.ly/31SiIjV).

As always, we appreciate your support and willingness to care not only for yourself and your family members but for our entire school community. We are all in this together, and together we will continue to do all we can do to provide a healthy education to our students.

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