WVDHHR, Department of Education release guidance on responding to COVID-19 outbreaks in schools
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) - With just a little over two weeks left until the first bell, the West Virginia Department of Education and the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources has partnered to come up with ‘best practices’ to address a potential coronavirus outbreak in schools.
In the event one student tests positive for COVID-19 within a school, that student must stay home until released from isolation which ‘usually lasts 10 days after symptom onset.’ The class or core group also will be required to stay home for a 14-day quarantine regardless of test results.
Officials say if the school is not practicing core grouping or there is some mixing of grouping, administrators will work with the health department to identify close contacts. Officials say parents can anticipate grade-wide or school-wide dismissal for several days while identification and notifications of close contacts is ongoing.
If a teacher or staff member tests positive, that staff member will be required to stay home for 10 days after the onset of symptoms and can not return until they have been fever free for 24 hours with improved symptoms. The classroom or core group with close contact must also quarantine for 14 days regardless of test results.
Officials say if an outbreak of two or more people with positive results would occur, suspension of in-person instruction for the entire school should not be necessary.
The protocol calls for the consideration of the suspension of in-person learning for a school if there is evidence of transmission between classrooms or core groups opposed to two distinct classroom outbreaks both starting with known household exposures.
Officials say in the event 5 percent of students/staff have confirmed cases of COVID-19, the WVDHHR will determine when testing is appropriate for close contacts and it is recommended that in-person instruction be suspended for 14 days.
Testing everyone in a school, either before school starts or during school, is not recommended.
Officials listed the following criteria for suspending in-person learning for a single class or core group:
- There is a student or staff member with confirmed case of COVID-19 because all members of the class/core group will be quarantined for 14 days. Length of suspension: 14 days.
- There is a classroom/core group outbreak, because all members of the class/core group will be quarantined for 14 days. Length of suspension: 14 days.
Official say in-person learning for a school should be suspended when:
- Five or more classroom/core group outbreaks (defined above) occur within a 14-day period. Length of suspension: 14 days.
- 5% or more unrelated students/staff have confirmed COVID-19 within a 14-day period (minimum of 10 unrelated students/staff). Length of suspension: 14 days.
In-person learning for an entire county should be suspended in accordance WV DHHR School Alert System.
The protocol defines close contact to a COVID-19 positive patient as the following:
- within 6 feet of that person for at least 15 minutes
- provided care for someone who is sick with COVID-19
- had direct physical contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19
- shared eating or drinking utensils with someone who is sick with COVID-19
- got respiratory droplets on them (through sneezing, coughing, shouting, etc.) from a positive patients
- in the same class/core group as a person with COVID-19
If a student of staff member has a new symptom with no other diagnosis to explain it, they should stay home and talk to their health care provider about testing for COVID-19.
Click here to see all of the West Virginia Department of Education’s COVID-19 outbreak guidelines.
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