State provides guidance for schools on how to handle COVID-19 cases
As school systems across the state continue to fine-tune their specific reopening plans, the state’s Department of Health and Human Services recently updated its interim guidance regarding dealing with suspected, presumptive and confirmed COVID-19 cases for once the school year begins.
Students and staff will be required to answer screening questions each day and will have their temperatures checked before they enter the building. The questions include: have they had close contact (defined as within six feet for at least 15 minutes) with someone diagnosed with coronavirus; have they exhibited any coronavirus-related symptoms — fever, chills, shortness of breath, new cough or loss to taste or smell — since they were last at school; and have they been diagnosed with the virus since last at school.
If people answer “yes” to any of the questions or have a fever (determined as 100.4 degrees or greater), they will be evaluated again to confirm there has been some sort of exposure. If confirmed, they will be sent home or held at a designated area until they can go home. If they develop symptoms while in class, they will be screened again. Students and staff are also encouraged to self-monitor for common symptoms such as fever or cough.
If someone is exposed to the disease, they should be sent home for 14 days. If someone is diagnosed with no symptoms, they cannot go to school for 10 days since the first positive test, according to the guidance.
Any student or teacher who has symptoms or has tested positive should not go to school and instead should stay home for at least 10 days since the first symptoms appeared, health officials said. If the person tests negative for the virus, they may return to school once there is no fever and they have felt well for 24 hours. Students can participate in remote learning while in quarantine.
If there is a confirmed screening, whether someone was exposed, symptomatic or has tested positive, the health department should be contacted. The school should then follow the directions of the department regarding regarding next steps, including who else to contact and proper cleaning procedures.
If someone is symptomatic or has a confirmed case, the school needs to close off areas the person is known to have recently frequented so they can be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected. The health department should be contacted to determine the severity of the situation and the next steps, which can range from closing the classroom to an entire building.
A person who has tested positive will be interviewed by the health department to determine the people they had recently been in close contact with. Those contacts, including fellow students or staff, will then be identified, asked to quarantine for 14 days and tested.
To help prevent the spread of the virus, students and staff should also wear face coverings at all times, except when they are eating or engaged in physical activity, according to the guidelines. Schools should also regularly clean classrooms, bathrooms, cafeterias and other locations people will regularly frequent along with high-touch areas such as doorknobs, stair rails, desks, light switches, etc.
Though not required, it is recommended that schools design hallways as one-way and post directional reminders, designate entrance and exit doors for classrooms and bathrooms, keep students in small groups as much as possible (and avoid mixing between groups) and hold physical education classes outdoors when possible.
With Stanly County Schools planning to operate under Plan B, elementary school students will have in-person instruction five days a week, while middle and high school students will alternate between weeks of in-person and remote learning.
Contact reporter Chris Miller at 704-982-2122.
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