“Local Control”: How the End of COVID Contact Tracing Affects Cayuga County Schools | Local News | Auburn, NY | Auburnpub.com

A meeting between superintendents of Cayuga County schools and the health department led to a change in how COVID-19 contact tracing investigations will be conducted.

Kathleen Cuddy, the county’s director of public health, told the Citizen on Thursday that the department does not issue isolation or quarantine orders “unless there are special circumstances.”

“We don’t anticipate this at our school facilities,” Cuddy said, confirming that the department will no longer handle contact tracing for school cases.

She continued: “Schools no longer need to send us the contact tracing list so that we can log into the system and then communicate with families. They still need to notify families when there is a positive student. They must always be aware when children and staff are in isolation or quarantine They must continue to respect and respect prevention activities… Their workload continues.

While this can be a lot for school districts to manage, it’s a welcome change for superintendents. Moravia Central School District superintendent John Birmingham said one of the challenges during the recent COVID-19 surge is that the health department has been inundated with cases. This meant that some families had to wait several days for news from local health authorities, if they had heard of it.

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“By the time they got hold of people who might have been exposed, the person was already infected and had symptoms because it spread much faster and the symptoms came on much faster,” Birmingham said.

After changes to isolation and quarantine guidelines — positive cases must self-isolate for five days instead of 10 and close contacts must quarantine for five days — school principals and the health department will are meeting virtually on Tuesday. It was during this meeting that the superintendents, according to Birmingham, requested “local oversight” of contact tracing. Cuddy supported this request.

It may seem like a shift in responsibility, but school districts have already played an important role in contact tracing investigations. In Moravia, Birmingham said nurses would call positive cases and contact other families to let them know if they should keep their children at home if they were a close contact.

Mike Jorgenson, the superintendent of the Port Byron School District, wrote in a newsletter that “formal contact tracing in schools has been completed.”

“Our building managers will no longer have to watch hours of video in the dining room, calculate exact contact times between students, and fill out detailed spreadsheets each time we are notified of a case. positive for COVID-19,” he said. “School administrators can now quickly scan video, review seating plans, and have quick conversations with students and staff to determine possible exposures.”

But Jorgenson noted that ending contact tracing will not eliminate the need for students to self-quarantine when exposed to COVID-19. However, he expects the number of students to be quarantined to decrease.

One of the reasons superintendents are confident they can handle the workload is the availability of rapid tests. Jorgenson said they can use rapid tests for asymptomatic students in situations where there may have been school contact with a positive case.

Birmingham also highlighted the benefits of rapid tests and how it helps ensure students can stay in class. He called it a “game changer” because they can test kits that may have symptoms of COVID or if there are asymptomatic children who have been exposed to the virus.

“Having access to the number of tests we have now provides us with that stage of mitigation that we didn’t have before,” he said.

Cayuga County has reported more than 8,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 since Sept. 1, and more than 20% of those cases (1,712) involve students, teachers, and school personnel. Auburn, the county’s largest school district, has the most cases (562) among its staff and students. Moravia has 308 cases, including 227 in the past two weeks. Port Byron has the fewest cases (122).

Online producer Robert Harding can be reached at (315) 282-2220 or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @robertharding.