Exposures, Close Contacts & Quarantines

09-12-2021Nurse's LetterShannon David, RN, NCSN

Many have asked how exactly the school gets notified of a COVID positive case and what protocols are followed once that happens. As a strong testament to the strength of our “Home & School” partnership, in all cases, we have received notification through parents before it comes from the Health Department. “Self reporting”, as soon as possible, is so important because it gives the school the opportunity to respond quickly, when necessary. Critical aspects of our infection control strategies are the timely identification of those who are sick and need to be isolated and the timely quarantine of close contacts.

By asking people who might have been exposed and might be infected to stay away from others until enough time has passed to be sure they don’t have COVID, the transmission of the virus to other community members is prevented. The Maricopa County Department of Public Health (MCDPH) is the source for guidance in these matters and the latest quarantine guidance can be accessed here: Quarantine Guidance for Close Contacts. After instituting isolation of the COVID positive person and determining whether or not the person was on campus during the defined infectious period (48 hours prior to symptom onset), detailed contact tracing is done.

In terms of identifying which students are considered close contacts at school: Attendance records, arrival time logs, before school assigned seating, class seating charts, lunch seating charts, class activities, field assignments, after school activities (sports, Kid’s Club), as well as the input of teachers and staff who are on campus and direct witnesses to any contact to determine incidents and levels of contact, are all considered.  

Vaccination status and masking are also taken into consideration. When the close contacts, or the parent/guardian of minors, are notified of the need to quarantine, no information regarding the identity of the COVID positive person is released. Maintaining the privacy of the person who has tested COVID positive is not only a legal requirement, but is also meant to shield the person from undue negative repercussions. If the person who is COVID positive was not on campus during the infectious period, there is no exposure to anyone on campus and thus no community wide notification. Most often what happens is that a person who was placed in quarantine, after being identified as a close contact, becomes ill and then is placed in isolation for 10 days. Because the person was not on campus during the time that they would have been infectious, exposure of others was prevented.

To date we have had only 1 case of a person being on campus during the infectious period of COVID that resulted in an exposure to others on campus (8/20/21). Currently, there are 187 elementary schools (K-8) in Maricopa County in “open outbreak” status (MCDPH Schools Dashboard). Thankfully, OLMC is not one of them! Please continue to perform a Daily Screening on your children prior to them coming to school each day. If your child is not feeling well, or has been exposed to someone who has COVID, please keep them home and contact the Nurse’s Office. Rest assured, any student who is in quarantine or isolation will be assisted to keep current with his/her school work and will not be penalized for conforming to public health directives. By continuing to work together, “Home & School”, we will make it through these tough times--just as we did last year! 

Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, pray for us!