Amid a record increase in COVID-19 cases, the Johnson County Department of Health and Environment has told local school districts that “intensive contact tracing in schools is no longer possible.” .
The influx of new cases, fueled in part by the highly contagious variant of omicron, has made it virtually impossible for JCDHE officials and school nurses to keep up with the often tedious task of researching who an infected person may have been in contact with. contact. .
The JCDHE says that instead, priority should now be given to identifying positive cases and isolating them.
This means families will no longer be notified if their child may have come into close contact with an infected person, according to an emailed statement from Blue Valley district officials to families this week.
Given the pressure on public resources, the email said: “Blue Valley will no longer provide the close contact information of JCDHE and JCDHE will no longer notify staff / students if they are a close contact of ‘a school exhibition. “
Shawnee Mission Superintendent Michelle Hubbard echoed much the same sentiment during the University of Kansas Health Systems COVID-19 daily briefing on Tuesday.
“The county has told us – and we totally agree with them on this point – that we will no longer focus on contact tracing,” Hubbard said. “Frankly, we can’t keep up. We’ll do our best, but no, we have to fall back on those layers of mitigation [to stop spread]. “
These “layers” of mitigation include maintaining the wearing of masks around others and physical distancing when possible.
Schools and JCDHE also encourage families to have their children fully immunized and, if eligible, to have them immunized.
Here’s how the decision could affect children and parents:
Will we be told if our child is exposed at school?
- Maybe not, which is why district officials are encouraging families and students to closely monitor their own health.
- For example, Blue Valley asks families to “remain diligent in conducting a personal health assessment each day,” and if a child is not feeling well, she urges families to keep him or her at home.
Can my child still get tested through the school?
- Blue Valley and Shawnee Mission both have “Test to Stay” programs, which allow students known to have been in close contact with a positive case to stay in school as long as they are negative themselves.
- But this only concerns students who have been identified as close contact of a positive case.
- Blue Valley encourages families to make testing appointments with MAWD Laboratories in Overland Park.
- Shawnee Mission operates a centralized testing center six days a week at the district’s Broadmoor Center, details of which can be found here.
But what if my child is asymptomatic? Can they still get tested at school?
- With fewer resources devoted to contact tracing in schools, asymptomatic children are likely to be tested less frequently, if at all, in the future.
- Outside of school, finding appointments for testing and home testing is also proving increasingly difficult in Johnson County, but this is where you can start looking.
- JCDHE offers a weekly drive-thru test clinic every Wednesday. You can make an appointment here.
- The Kansas Department of Health and Environment also operates two drive-thru test sites in Johnson County.
Does my child still have to wear a mask?
- All schools serving up to and including 6th grade students in Johnson County still need masks, according to a county-wide public health order that was confirmed by the county commission on Thursday.
- Most middle and high schools in Shawnee Mission are now requiring masks again after high rates of COVID-19 transmission were detected at those schools on the first day of class of the new semester on Wednesday.
- Bottom line, even where it is not mandatory, districts still encourage students to wear masks in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19, especially if you believe you have been exposed.
- JCDHE recommends that if your child has been exposed to a positive case, to wear masks at all times around others for at least 10 days following exposure.
What if my child is vaccinated?
- If your child has been vaccinated, it usually makes it easier for your child to stay in school if they have been exposed to a positive case.
- If your child is vaccinated, JCDHE recommends that your child always wear a mask around others for at least 10 days after potential exposure to avoid potential spread to others.
- If possible, have your child tested on the fifth day after exposure. If they are positive or start showing symptoms, you should keep them home after school.
What if my child feels sick, but I can’t get tested?
- Keep them at home, if you can.
- Districts and public health officials repeatedly warn that if your child is showing symptoms of COVID-19 or is feeling sick – especially a headache and cough – then keeping him at home away from others is the best way to prevent further spread.