Regardless of the fact many states continue to see record numbers of new COVID-19 cases each day, there is a concerted effort for schools to reopen by the fall. However, many schools have hundreds of students and employees, raising questions about how they will be able to operate in accordance with federal guidelines.
Although Education Secretary Betsy DeVos said that, “schools must reopen, and they must be fully operational,” public-health officials have warned that reopening too soon could lead to further outbreaks.
Even when schools do resume in-person classes, things will look a lot different than what we’re used to.
Consideration for Schools
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) offers consideration for ways in which schools can help protect students, teachers, administrators and staff and slow the spread of COVID-19. Schools can determine, in collaboration with state and local health officials and to the extent possible, whether and how to implement these considerations, while adjusting to meet the unique needs and circumstances of the local community.
· School policies must be flexible and nimble in responding to new information, and administrators must be willing to refine approaches when specific policies are not working.
· It is critically important to develop strategies that can be revised and adapted depending on the level of viral transmission in the school and throughout the community and done with close communication with state and/or local public health authorities and recognizing the differences between school districts, including urban, suburban, and rural districts.
· Policies should be practical, feasible, and appropriate for child and adolescent’s developmental stage.
· Special considerations and accommodations to account for the diversity of youth should be made, especially for our vulnerable populations, including those who are medically fragile, live in poverty, have developmental challenges, or have special health care needs or disabilities, with the goal of safe return to school.
· No child or adolescents should be excluded from school unless required to adhere to local public health mandates or because of unique medical needs. Pediatricians, families, and schools should partner together to collaboratively identify and develop accommodations, when needed.
· School policies should be guided by supporting the overall health and well-being of all children, adolescents, their families, and their communities. These policies should be consistently communicated in languages other than English, if needed, based on the languages spoken in the community, to avoid marginalization of parents/guardians who are of limited English proficiency or do not speak English at all.
Implementation should be guided by what is feasible, practical, acceptable, and tailored to the needs of each community. One such consideration schools should implement is, contact tracing.
What Is Contact Tracing
Contact tracing is used by health departments to prevent the spread of infectious disease. In general, contact tracing involves identifying people who have an infectious disease (cases) and their contacts (people who may have been exposed) and working with them to interrupt disease transmission. For COVID-19, this includes asking cases to isolate and contacts to quarantine at home voluntarily.
Contact tracing for COVID-19 typically involves:
Interviewing people with COVID-19 to identify everyone with whom they had close contact during the time they may have been infectious,
Notifying contacts of their potential exposure,
Referring contacts for testing,
Monitoring contacts for signs and symptoms of COVID-19, and
Connecting contacts with services they might need during the self-quarantine period.
To prevent the further spread of disease, COVID-19 contacts are encouraged to stay home and maintain social distance (at least 6 feet) from others until 14 days after their last exposure to a person with COVID-19. Contacts should monitor themselves by checking their temperature twice daily and watching for symptoms of COVID-19.
This practice—implemented by a robust workforce and bolstered by digital tools—will be central to safely reopening U.S. schools and businesses, according to a recent report by the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security. In this Q&A, Crystal Watson, DrPH a lead author of the report, explains why technology is vital to contact tracing efforts and how it might work.
Many schools that are scheduled for re-opening are taking the necessary precautions to avoid the spread COVID-19. Such efforts require schools to be overtly prepared to respond to incidents remotely. This includes a need for video security solutions that can be deployed quickly.
Aimed towards enabling organizations and schools to prepare for and respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, Monarch’s COVID-19 Response Suite leverages Monarch’s powerful edge-based computing capabilities.