What happens when a COVID-19 case is reported at a Sonoma County school?
A student or staff member who begins experiencing COVID-19 symptoms or tests positive is required to report it to their school campus. Schools are then required to report to Sonoma County Health Services Department.
Typically, the county’s public health schools team will reach out to all cases and close contacts, said Matt Brown, county spokesman.
“However, when we have a large surge in cases, we simply do not have enough people to manage all of the outreach required,” he said in an email. “This is what we are seeing right now, so we have been requesting that the schools do most of the contact tracing and communication to the close contacts involved with their exposure events.”
Close contacts are defined as those people who have spent 15 minutes in a 24 hour period within 6 feet of an infected person starting from two days before illness onset. For asymptomatic patients, the window is two days before a test specimen is collected.
General notices are sent out to all staff and families when a case is identified among a campus community member. Close contacts receive notifications with quarantine instructions.
County health workers also help school officials determine what quarantine protocols are necessary for each individual involved.
Any sign of COVID symptoms, for example, means the student or staff member is required to quarantine. A positive test also leads to mandatory quarantine.
Students’ or staff members’ ability to return to campus depends on a variety of factors, including the resolution of their symptoms or proof that a doctor attributed those symptoms to another condition.
If the person is asymptomatic, quarantine can end 11 days from the date of last exposure without testing, or by day 7 if they test negative. Schools, at the direction of health officials, are asking asymptomatic close contacts to wait five days after initial exposure to test, to minimize the chances of a false negative.
Vaccinated and unvaccinated close contacts may be allowed to participate in a “modified quarantine” this year, which enables them to stay in school.
They must be tested for COVID-19 twice a week during the 10-day quarantine period and remain free of symptoms.
Clusters of three or more cases at one school signal to public health officials that spread may be happening on campus, Brown said.
“If it seems probable that the 3 cases are linked (and they are not household members, or somehow otherwise involved with each other off-campus) then we may consider it an ‘outbreak’ at that time,” he said. “If we have an ‘outbreak,’ we may have to close the classroom. If we begin to see multiple outbreaks at a school at one time, we may have to temporarily close the site while more testing is done to determine the extent or possibility of a much larger outbreak.“
Education, The Press Democrat
Learning is a transformative experience. Beyond that, it’s a right, under the law, for every child in this country. But we also look to local schools to do much more than teach children; they are tasked with feeding them, socializing them and offering skills in leadership and civics. My job is to help you make sense of K-12 education in Sonoma County and beyond.
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