How are schools keeping COVID off campus?
Last updated 12/2/2020 at 9:17am
With the surging of the coronavirus around the country and even in local counties, there’s still enough evidence to give experts confidence that schools are not major spreaders of the illness, if managed for it and if local COVID cases aren’t out of hand.
So what, exactly, do Lake Roosevelt Schools do to keep COVID off the campus?
Health officers from Region 7 (Okanogan, Grant, Douglas, Chelan, Kittitas) counties have set up a protocol for screening for COVID-19 at schools, which Lake Roosevelt follows.
The protocol allows students and staff into the school if they have no diagnosis of the illness, no symptoms of it, and have had no exposure to someone else with COVID.
Having COVID symptoms with or without known exposure means not going to school, as does a positive COVID test. Close contact to someone with COVID also means not going to school. Close contact is defined as being less than 6 feet away from someone with the virus for 15 minutes or more within a 24-hour period.
These four different scenarios are handled differently.
With only one “Class B” symptom, a student or staff member may only need to stay home for 24 hours after a fever reduces without medication and symptoms improve.
Class B symptoms include fatigue, muscle aches, headaches, runny nose, and more.
Class A symptoms include a fever of 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit or higher, chills, cough, shortness of breath, and a new loss of taste or smell.
With two or more Class B symptoms, any Class A symptoms, symptoms with known exposure, or a positive COVID test, a staffer or student has to stay home at least 10 days, and at least 24 hours after fever reduces and symptoms improve.
Close contact to someone with COVID means staying home for 14 days from the date of the last exposure to that person.
Speaking with The Star over the phone on Monday, school district Superintendent Paul Turner said he talks with local health district authorities two to three times a week and keeps track of the COVID incidence rates in Okanogan, Grant, Douglas, Lincoln, and Ferry counties, where LR students live.
“My big curiosity is, is [COVID] here in the Coulee?” Turner said.
Turner is working with Okanogan and Grant County in getting a number more specific to the Grand Coulee Dam School District, rather than the counties as a whole. “They’re working on how they could compile it,” he said.
Despite high COVID numbers in the counties, schools can operate in person as long as the cases aren’t in the school.
According to Region 7 health authorities, “it’s not a matter of what’s going on in the community, but in the school,” Turner said.
In-person schooling could be shut down if there was exposure in two separate classrooms, Turner explained, with the Okanogan County health officer having authority to do that. Or Turner, himself, in consultation with the school board, could make that call.
“Right now, we’re not seeing these numbers at school,” Turner said. “I need to get my kids educated. We missed a semester at school. The more we stay at distance learning, the more we’re losing with these kids.”
Turner said that running low on staff is a concern due to staff members having to quarantine from some instances of exposure.
Allowing staff to work from home is one solution to that problem, he said.