Contact tracing to prevent school-wide COVID-19 outbreaks


SPRINGDALE, Ark (KNWA/KFTA) — School is back session as COVID-19 cases continue to climb in the region. Districts have a major task of keeping students and staff safe to help reduce the spread of the virus.

Contact tracing is one of the many layers of protection in this fight against COVID-19. It is an important tool some districts use to prevent school-wide outbreaks.

Springdale Public Schools has an online form for students to self-report or to report a positive COVID-19 case within their home. The district’s point of contact person then initiates the contact tracing process to identify anyone exposed to the virus. That is where seating charts come in handy.

“We need to know where all of our children are, we need to know that all of our children are safe. If you look at contact tracing it helps us to be able to identify areas where we need to increase cleaning or maybe, we need to increase social distancing,” said Trent Jones, the Communications Director for Springdale public schools.

It also helps identify close contacts, a person within six feet of a positive covid individual for 15 cumulative minutes or longer within a 24-hour period.

Jones says the school is following the state department of health’s guidelines to determine who is considered a close contact and if that individual will have to quarantine or isolate.

Being vaccinated does play a role in how long you may have to quarantine and the final recommendation by school nurses.

Now, here is the chart the district shared in their ready for learning plan.

You can see at the top, the first question is; Is the individual fully vaccinated? If no, then they will have to quarantine for 7, 10 or 14 days depending on the recommendation. If the person is vaccinated then the next question is are they showing symptoms? If not, then they don’t have to quarantine. If they are showing COVID symptoms, then they will have to isolate.

Jones says being vaccinated and wearing a mask properly can mean shorter to no periods of quarantine. He adds they serve as incentives for students to avoid getting sick and missing days of school which in turn impacts the community

“If kids must go home, then parents or guardians must come home and watch them. This then impacts businesses, so it is very important that all of us buy-in and understand the layers of protection we have,” said Jones.

The district does not have a set threshold to trigger a closure. Schools are evaluated on a case-by-case basis.

Jones says at the end the goal is to keep schools open, keep kids learning, and to keep everyone safe. The district tells us it is doing all it can to reduce the spread of the coronavirus within its community.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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