Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) regarding USD 210 and Covid-19
Q. Who establishes the guidelines and criteria for who must quarantine?
A. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) set the guidelines for who must quarantine, both at the national and at the state level.
Q. What role does the Stevens County Health Department have with regards to quarantine?
A. The Stevens County Health Department is charged with contact tracing individuals who have been exposed to the virus based on a positive test. The health department also is tasked with monitoring individuals in quarantine to help identify if those individuals begin to show symptoms, and should be tested.
Q. What is “contact tracing”?
A. Contact tracing is a process used by health departments to identify all the possible people (contacts) that an infected person may have been around, and exposed while contagious. For more information on contact tracing visit: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/daily-life-coping/contact-tracing.html
Q. Who is a close contact?
A. A close contact is someone who has been within 6 feet of a case for 10 minutes or more or had direct contact with bodily secretions (for example, being coughed or sneezed on). Any students or staff that maintained a 6-foot distance from the positive case would not be considered close contacts and would therefore not be subject to the 14-day quarantine period.
If the positive case, or close contacts, or both, wore cloth facemasks at all times this reduces the risk of developing COVID-19 disease. However, the use of cloth facemasks does not eliminate the risk completely; therefore, close contacts would still be subject to a 14-day quarantine. Any close contacts that wore appropriate PPE, either a fit-tested N95 masks with protective eyewear or a surgical mask with a face shield, would not be considered close contacts.
Q. When the health department is identifying close contacts, what time period do they use?
A. The time period for close contact tracing includes any day(s) the positive student or staff attended school and the preceding 48 hours prior to symptom onset (symptomatic cases) or the preceding 48 hours prior to sample collection (asymptomatic cases).
Q. What role does the school district have with the quarantine process?
A. The school district will help the local health department to determine possible close contacts. Schools use seating charts and attendance records to help determine where students sit and if those seats are within 6 feet of another individual. Names of individuals who are identified as possible close contacts through this process are then provided to the health department for further investigation.
Q. Why does the school district help create this list?
A. One essential job of the school district is to provide a healthy, safe, learning environment. As with any communicable illness or disease, the district works with local health officials to determine who may have been exposed so that they may seek medical treatment if necessary.
Q. Does the district share names of students who have tested positive?
A. No. Only a select few individuals (building and district administrators, and nurses) receive the information on who has tested positive. This information is only provided to them so that they can help identify close contacts. The district considers confidentiality on these matters of utmost importance.
Q. I thought that if kids wore masks, they wouldn’t have to go home and be in quarantine. Is that not true?
A. At one time, the district understood that anyone wearing a mask would not have to be excluded from school and enter into quarantine. Unfortunately, the guidelines change and the district must adjust to those changes. KDHE currently defines a close contact as someone who has been within 6 feet of an infected person, for 10 minutes or longer, regardless of if masks are worn.
Q. Then why are we wearing masks at school, if students still have to go home to quarantine?
A. While masks may not keep students from being considered close contacts who must quarantine, they still provide benefits:
- Instead of the entire classroom having to go home to quarantine, only those considered close contacts will have to go home. Because classrooms are small with limited ventilation options, no masks would mean that all students in the room would be exposed, meaning more students would have to go home to quarantine. Masks limit the amount of students exposed.
- While close contacts still must quarantine, by having all wear masks, the chance transmission is greatly reduced. While it won’t guarantee that spread will not happen, or that students in masks will not contract the disease, masks do minimize that risk and exposure, meaning, the risk of an outbreak at school is minimized. They also reduce the chances that those close contacts actually contract the disease.
Q. I thought the safety precautions and plans the district made would mean that we wouldn’t have any positive cases at school. Do these precautions not work?
A. Unfortunately, all the precautions in the world would not ensure that no student or staff member would contact COVID-19. We take these precautions to try and limit exposure and decrease the risk of contracting the virus while at school. At this time, no one has contracted the disease while at school. We cannot guarantee that will always be true. Our goal is to create the safest, healthiest environment for our children to be able to learn in.
Q. If only close contacts had to go to quarantine, why did entire classes at the high school get notified that they had to stay home?
A. We have not had to send an entire classroom home due to exposure. Because masks have been worn, ONLY close contacts have been notified to quarantine. The number of close contacts is somewhat dependent on how each building operates. At the elementary school, where students tend to be in more self contained rooms, and have assigned seats and stable work groups, they have fewer opportunities to be around others as close contacts (6 feet or closer for more than 10 minutes). At the middle school and high school levels, there are more opportunities for exposure because they change classrooms and attend classes with more kids. It is not out of the realm of possibility that at the middle or high school levels, one person can expose 2-3 students (based on where they sit) per class period and then again, during lunch. This means it is conceivable to have 15-20 possible exposures or more, for every confirmed case. Could we have as many exposures at the elementary? Yes, but it is less likely because they do not change rooms or groups as often.