We have had nearly three weeks of in-person and in-ViPR instruction, and I want to give a big high five to all of our teachers, support team members and administrators at our school campuses and administrative center. The amount of work and effort that has transpired to provide the last three weeks of instruction and support services has been nothing short of incredible. Please join me in thanking our team for meeting this challenge with the utmost professionalism, all the while with patience and grace!
I have taken a few questions from parents this week about our COVID-19 cases. I want to use most of this email message to provide some background and context to our experiences thus far.
First, the numbers and the definitions….
As of this writing, a total of five students and staff members are in “isolation” and are not in school due to being tested as positive for COVID-19. As I will explain below, it appears that none of the students or staff members are in isolation due to a school-related virus transmission. We have a total of 75 students and staff members not in school due to being in “quarantine.” Only 18 of those in quarantine are due to a potential exposure at a school or school-related event.
A person is considered positive for COVID-19 when a coronavirus test comes back positive from a physician or a testing service. When a person tests positive, they go into a status known as “isolation.” Per the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), a person stays in isolation, meaning the person needs to stay home with as little contact with others as possible, generally for a period of 10 days.
When a person is tested positive for COVID-19, contact tracing is initiated by the local health department. Contact tracing is the process to identify other persons who may have come into contact with the COVID-19 positive person. Those other persons who meet certain criteria (most commonly being within six feet to a COVID-19 positive person for greater than 15 minutes in a 24 hour period) are placed on “quarantine” by the local health department for a period of 14 days. Quarantines are precautionary and do not mean the quarantined person has COVID-19. Isolation, on the other hand, is for persons who have tested positive for COVID-19.
Context to Ray-Pec’s isolations and quarantines
When the local health department conducts contract tracing, the attempt is made to trace back the positive case to the source of the transmission. Of all of the positive COVID-19 cases that we have had among students and staff since the start of school, none have been traced back to the schools as being the place of the source of transmission according to the Cass County Health Department (CCHD). All of the cases to this point have pointed to other locations as being the source of transmission. This is not to say that our schools won’t ever be a source of transmission; however, at this point, our experience indicates that since the opening of schools there has been no virus transmission traced to our school campuses that has resulted in a positive COVID-19 case.
The numbers of students and staff in quarantine tell a similar story. Most of those in quarantine, 57 of the 75, are because of exposures outside of the school. The contact tracing would suggest that these exposures occur in group gatherings, where physical distancing and face coverings have not been utilized.
We need to keep several things top of mind as we look at these numbers. One, strong mitigation efforts help reduce the risk of viral transmission. In a meeting on Thursday with Dr. Rachel Orscheln, director of pediatric infectious disease at Washington University in St. Louis, Dr. Orscheln stated “schools that have reopened with mitigation in place have seen little transmission in schools.” Dr. Orscheln used a national and international data set to draw her conclusion. This is very encouraging. Two, our mitigation efforts have been strong and we will continue to adhere to them. However, this must be a community-wide effort. We need to be vigilant and exercise best practices to minimize the risk of COVID-19 transmission inside and outside our schools. Physical distancing, wearing face coverings, washing hands frequently, staying home if you have symptoms of COVID-19, and following isolation or quarantine directions from the CCHD are commitments we need to continue to make to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission.
There is still much uncertainty ahead. Please prepare.
Because of the coming cold and flu season along with the potential fallout from the Labor Day weekend, public health experts are warning about an uncertain next several months. You need to know about the potential for frequent transitions between in-person and distance learning for those students who selected the in-person option. To our parents who work outside of the home, there is the potential for classroom, school or district closures and transition to distance learning throughout the upcoming months. Please think about and prepare a personal contingency plan should a classroom, school or district closure become necessary.
Our COVID-19 transparency
As you know, we made the commitment early-on in this situation to share with our parent and staff communities information of each positive COVID-19 case among students and staff within 24 hours of us being notified by the CCHD. Additionally, we have recently added more COVID-19 information to our website dashboard. The dashboard will be updated regularly with information on the percentage of active cases of isolations and quarantines that have originations inside and outside of our schools.
In closing, I want to thank you, parents and guardians, for your patience and grace thus far in the school year. Every day is a new adventure for all of us. While I can’t promise what our tomorrows will look like, I can promise you that we will make the very best of each day that we have with your children.
Thank you for entrusting your children to the Ray-Pec School District.
I am passionately driven by the belief that Everyone Is Created To Flourish