End of universal COVID-19 contact tracing in schools

The Fulton County Health Department will no longer conduct widespread contact tracing for schools. The decision is due to a recommendation from the Ohio Department of Health and in collaboration with county schools.

On Jan. 26, Bruce Vanderhoff, director of the Ohio Department of Health, sent a memo to local health departments and school principals across the state notifying them of the changes.

“The rapid spread of the Omicron variant and its rapid clinical course have made universal contact tracing, case investigation and exposure notification impossible when combined with newly reduced timelines for quarantine and isolation. “, he said in the memo.

In the memo, the Ohio Department of Health recommended that local health departments move from universal contact tracing, case investigation, and exposure notification to a model based on clusters or outbreaks.

He also said schools can pause universal contact tracing, but should support local health departments with contact tracing, case investigation and reporting of exposure related to outbreaks or clusters in schools, such as determined by the local health department.

The memo continued, “K-12 schools should continue to follow ODH’s ‘Mask to Stay, Test to Play’ protocol, and allow asymptomatic students to attend school while still wearing a mask if they have been exposed to someone with COVID-19. The best place for children is in school, in person, full time.

The Fulton County Health Department reported there had been an encouraging decrease in cases since mid-January. At the height of the Omicron variant push, the total number of weekly cases was 694 and by last week it had fallen to 74.

However, the community transmission rate continues to be well above the high level. Fulton County’s case rate was 470 cases per 100,000 on Feb. 10, the last day of its update.

When using 14 days of data, as is the case with the Ohio Department of Health data dashboard, a level of less than 100 cases per 100,000 population is needed, as well as a test positivity of less than 8% to move a community to a moderate level of community transmission. The most recent data from earlier this month showed Fulton County’s test positivity at 16.5%.

In addition to the change in school-related contact tracing, the Ohio Department of Health’s contractor, PCG, will no longer conduct contact tracing for adults in Fulton County. Groups of positive cases, called outbreaks or clusters, will be investigated and followed up by the local health department.

“Despite this change in contact tracing, all residents are asked to be cautious. COVID-19 varies in severity of symptoms,” read a news release from the Fulton County Health Department. “The virus causing COVID-19 affects everyone differently, and until you are in the middle of the illness, it is difficult to predict whether you will have a mild case or a severe case with the potential for hospitalization. Parents should assume that their child can potentially be exposed to an asymptomatic classmate or staff member with COVID-19 every day they attend school or other crowded indoor environments.

The most recent data indicates that individuals are most likely to transmit COVID-19 to others during the 1-2 days before symptoms appear and the first 2-3 days after the day symptoms first appear. start.

The Fulton County Health Department is asking residents to take the following steps if they or their child has symptoms of COVID-19:

1. Search for tests. The availability of rapid home tests for the COVID-19 antigen is variable. Residents are encouraged to order tests through USPS and keep them on hand for when needed at https://www.covidtests.gov/.

With the Omicron variant, these tests are most accurate when the person being tested has had symptoms for 24 hours or is tested four to five days after exposure.

2. Stay home when you are sick. People with COVID-19 should self-isolate at home for at least five days from the onset of symptoms or, if asymptomatic, from the day of a positive test. They can return to their usual activities on Day 6 if they have been fever-free for at least 24 hours without taking fever medication such as Tylenol and if their other symptoms improve. They must wear a mask when around other people for an additional five days so as not to infect others.

3. Promptly notify close contacts of their exposure. Close contacts should take multiple precautions for 10 days after their last exposure date (when they were within 6 feet for 15 minutes of the person with COVID-19). They should wear a mask for the next 10 days, especially at work and school.

Ideally, if the close contact is not up to date with the COVID-19 vaccination or has not tested positive for COVID-19 in the last 90 days, they should self-quarantine for the first five days , especially if the contact is a household member. However, the Ohio Department of Health’s “Mask to Stay/Test to Play” guidelines do not prevent close contacts from attending school if they do not have symptoms of COVID-19. Individuals should test on day 5 after exposure or if they develop symptoms, however minor. If they develop symptoms or test positive, self-isolate from others for at least five days from the date of the positive test or the onset of symptoms.

4. Contact your regular health care provider if you/your child are at higher risk for serious results, if symptoms worsen, or if symptoms have not improved within five days.

5. Contact the Fulton County Health Department at 419-337-0915 if you have any questions about quarantine, isolation, or current COVID-19 guidelines.

It is expected that the level of COVID-19 disease in the community will sometimes increase and sometimes decrease. Residents are encouraged to be aware of the level of COVID-19 disease present in your community.

Data resources include the Fulton County Health Department’s Facebook page and www.fultoncountyhealthdept.com, the Ohio Department of Health’s COVID Dashboard, and the CDC website.

For more information, visit www.fultoncountyhealthdept.com or call your Fulton County Health Department at 419-337-0915