End of contact tracing and masking in schools on Friday

New changes are coming to the Kenai Peninsula School District’s COVID-19 mitigation protocols, the district announced Monday. Starting Friday, March 4, the district will no longer conduct contact tracing at school and face coverings will be “strongly recommended,” but not required, for students and staff indoors in all grades. of COVID risk. Masks will also be optional for school visitors and volunteers.

Masks will still be required for all school bus passengers traveling to and from school, as well as for all extracurricular activities, as required by the U.S. Department of Transportation. Additionally, KPBSD will follow village and tribal COVID mandates for the operation of school facilities.

As of Monday, four KPBSD schools were operating with universal masking, including Fireweed Academy, Port Graham School, River City Academy and Tebughna School. KPBSD communications director Pegge Erkeneff said on Monday that because Port Graham school and Tebughna school are under village or tribal mandates, the masking will continue unless further action is taken. .

KPBSD’s symptom-free schools protocol remains in effect and free COVID-19 testing for KPBSD students and staff continues to be available at Glacier Family Practice Clinic in Seward as well as Soldotna Professional Pharmacy.

The district announced in early February that it would no longer conduct contact tracing at schools where universal masking was observed, citing the workload placed on school nurses. Staff and students who test positive and show symptoms of COVID-19 have been newly allowed to return to school or work as early as five days after testing positive, provided the symptoms resolve for at least least 24 hours without the help of medication.

The changes come as COVID-19 cases decline across Alaska and following relaxed masking guidelines from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The agency announced last Friday that it would begin using multiple metrics, such as occupied hospital beds and hospital admissions as well as new COVID cases, to determine the “COVID-19 community level” of ‘a zone. In its Friday guidance, the CDC described community levels as a “new tool” to help decide on COVID prevention steps.

CDC advises masks in counties with “high” COVID community level.

The peninsula’s COVID-19 community level was rated as “medium” on Saturday. At the medium-risk level, the CDC recommends people at high risk for serious illness speak with their healthcare provider about whether they should wear a mask and take other precautions.

Places with low, medium and high community levels are encouraged to keep up to date with COVID-19 vaccines; residents should get tested if symptoms develop.

According to the district’s COVID-19 dashboard, which went live last August, nearly 2,000 positive COVID-19 test results have been reported to the district by students and more than 435 positive results by staff. The cessation of contact during tracings, however, means that this data is imperfect.

KPBSD’s COVID-19 Dashboard can be viewed at covid19.kpbsd.org/dashboard.

Contact reporter Ashlyn O’Hara at [email protected]