Covid-19 and the school
November 4, 2020
The 2019-2020 school year ended in an unusual manner when the pandemic triggered national lockdowns. Big Sandy Schools shifted to a distance learning model for the last few months of the school year, while the the community went into lockdown. With the recent rise in Covid cases in the state, and the appearance of cases in Big Sandy, many people are worried that the schools will be forced to close down again to fight the spread of the virus. Last week, the Choteau County Health Department issued a new set of guidelines for handling Covid in the school setting.
The regulations primarily establish the protocols for dealing with cases and quarantining close contacts. The majority of the procedures deal with quarantining symptomatic individuals and contact tracing. Symptomatic individuals are dealt with according to the likelihood of having the virus. For example, individuals with only one symptom but not enough to warrant concern about their having Covid are to be sent home. If the symptoms persist for more than 48 hours, it’s recommended that the individual seek medical advice. They are free to return to school after 24 hours without a fever. Suspected cases are to remain isolated at home and advised to get tested. Again, they are able to return to school after 24 hours without a fever. In both cases, the health department doesn’t require close contacts to quarantine. Once a positive diagnosis happens, things become a little more complicated. The positive test result still requires that the individual recover in isolation at home, but it also requires that those exposed also quarantine for 2 weeks. It is not necessary for those exposed to get tested unless they are symptomatic.
The health department defines exposure as being within 6 feet of an infected individual for 15 minutes or more. The period of exposure is 48 hours prior to the manifestation of symptoms. This applies regardless of whether or not masks are worn. A person is not considered to be exposed if they simply passed each other in the hallway or in the same room and more than 6 feet away from the infected individual in the classroom setting. Time in close proximity is the standard for determining exposure. This means that an entire classroom would not need quarantine if only one student tests positive. Only those who were exposed would need to isolate. In an effort to limit contact, schools are advised to use assigned seating. If a person was exposed to a person who was exposed, they are not required to quarantine.
If the health department determines that there has been transmissions of the virus in the school setting, it may be necessary to close the school for cleaning and disinfecting. Such a cleaning may last between one and three days. The guidelines indicate that there are other factors which can impact school closures, including the transmission of Covid within the community and new directives from the governor’s office.
Parents are advised to help the school prevent the spread of Covid by watching their children for symptoms and keep them home if they are sick, avoiding people who are sick, maintaining social distancing outside of the home, limit the number of close contacts your family has, wearing a mask while out in public , hand washing, disinfecting common home surfaces regularly, and limiting travel.