Skip to comments.Pa. spells out when classrooms should be closed or cleaned if students, staff test positive for COVID-19
Posted on 08/14/2020 10:51:23 AM PDT by lightman
In most cases, a single student or staff COVID-19 case at a newly reopened school in Pennsylvania will not require an immediate shutdown of the building.
But two or more cases within a 14-day period could force at least a short-term building closure, and any school that hits five cases within two weeks would be shuttered for at least two weeks.
The new guidelines are the last big piece of the puzzle for school districts seeking at least a partial return to the classroom for students and teachers this summer, and they once again put a premium on the need for flexibility that teachers, students and their families are all going to have to exercise this fall.
You can have a handful of cases occur in that first week of school so people need to know whats the process, what do we do, how do we handle it, said Mark DiRocco, executive director of the Pennsylvania Association of School Administrators. As long as everyone knows that, they can put those protocols in place, inform the staff this is how were going to handle this, inform the parents this is how were going to handle this.
DiRocco said the new guidance is not likely to send districts back to the drawing board on their reopening plans. But he added that it will be very important that the state Health Department keep an open line for schools when the inevitable questions arise about issues like how an extensive a quarantine call to make.
We dont think that the local school superintendent or building principal or school nurse should be making that decision. So when that question is asked, we dont want recommendations at that point. We want a definitive answer... because thats a public health call. Thats not an administrative, educational call, he said.
The new guidance starts with the Wolf Administrations baseline determination of whether a district sits in a county with low, moderate or substantial coronavirus transmission rates based on local case counts and positive test rates over the past week.
The state has already begun issuing those weekly reports, and as of right now only one county, Union, has transmission rates high enough where the state is recommending that all students start the new school year remotely.
Everywhere else, local officials have the latitude to reopen buildings to at least half a schools student body at a time, and most of them are starting with schedules where all students attend school in person for two days a week, in two distinct groups, and then spend the rest of the week working on assignments, projects and tests.
Many more districts, especially in more rural areas that have seen relatively few COVID cases to date, are hoping to fully reopen with in-person instruction for the first time since Gov. Tom Wolf ordered a statewide closure of school buildings last March in an effort to limit the initial spread of coronavirus across Pennsylvania.
In most districts, all students also have the option of choosing an all-remote learning plan, even if their school is planning to offer in-person classes.
School leaders had been waiting for the additional guidance on how to respond if coronavirus shows up in the classroom. Heres what the state is directing:
In areas with low spread and just one case inside a school building over a 14-day period, the advice is to clean areas where the infected person has been and let contract tracing track close contacts for quarantining (people who have been within six feet of an infected person for at least 15 consecutive minutes starting from 2 days before illness onset until the time the patient is isolated).
State or local public health staff will need to work with school administrators in those cases to determine whether entire classrooms or other cohort groups need to be quarantined and excluded from the school. That, in turn, could depend, in most classroom settings, on adherence to masking and social distancing protocols.
With two to four cases in a single building over the two-week period, or multiple buildings with single cases who arent from the same household, districts are advised to clean, trace contacts and close those buildings for three days or longer, again depending on the broader community transmission rates. Schools that get five or more cases should close down for two weeks and the entire building should be cleaned, the Education and Health departments suggested.
The guidance says shutting down facilities allows public health staff the necessary time to complete case investigations and contact tracing, and to provide schools with other appropriate public health advice like cleaning and disinfecting.
In areas where COVID-19 is considered to be at the substantial level of community spread, the agencies say schools should shut their doors and operate with a full remote learning model.
Schools should keep people out of areas where a sick person has been, including buses and vans, and wait 24 hours before directing custodial staff to clean and disinfect. Students should not take part in disinfecting.
Public health officials do not need to be notified every time someone exhibits symptoms, but those people should be isolated and sent home with a referral to get medical attention, the state agencies said.
Flexibility is the key, DiRocco said.
I think the thing that were going to see this year is that this is going to be fluid, said DiRocco. I wouldnt be surprised to see districts change their model of learning once or twice through the first semester until we get a vaccine of some kind.
I think the thing weve all learned through this is were not going to dictate to the virus, the virus will dictate to us.
Capitol Bureau Chief Jan Murphy contributed to this report.
Newville Elementary School prepares for school year during the COVID pandemic. "Socially distanced" desks.
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The prevention has gotten worse than the disease, with no consideration of whether students testing positive have any symptoms worse than a cold, or any symptoms at all. We are shutting down America based on a junk test.
Does it specify the color of the handle of the mop that must be used in order to clean these classrooms? The thickness of the gloves? The exact metric dimension of any cleaning rags?
The area of Maryland I live they have multiple trailers for the overflow due to massive over development of neighborhoods,
I dont see how distancing is possible without doing alternate days for half the kids
They couldn’t come up with this 4 months ago?
If there is even one case of the virus in any public school, it should be shut down permanently and the parents be given their tax money back to use at private schools.
That would be a real win for education in this country.
I guess this means the Teacher’s Unions will tell their Members to start licking Toilet Seats.
Private School here in Michigan and this is basically the case.
Parents are being given the option of having the kids stay home and vitually attend the class if they are sick. If they are quarenteened they have to do virtual lessons until they are ready for inperson learning.
We may be seeing the end of “snow days” in schools because of the jump to virtual education.
We may aslo be seeing the end of in person instruction entirely.
> “... if students, staff test positive for COVID-19 “
Once again to morons in journalism, you don’t test positive for COVID-19, you are diagnosed with COVID-19.
You test positive for the virus which is not the disease. It may possibly lead to the disease, but it is not the disease.
Most everyone positive for the virus will never develop the disease.
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