District nixes contact tracing for schools with universal masking

The Kenai Peninsula Borough School District is no longer conducting COVID-19 contact tracing at schools where universal masking is in place, in accordance with updates to the district’s mitigation plan announced last month . Additionally, staff and students who test positive and show symptoms of COVID-19 are now allowed to return to school or work as early as five days after testing positive, provided the symptoms have resolved. for at least 24 hours without the aid of medication. .

KPBSD communications director Pegge Erkeneff said on Thursday that the decision to halt contact tracing in schools where universal masking is observed was partly due to a spike in cases that nurses and district staff ” couldn’t keep up” in mid-January. A review of the number of close contact students who later tested positive, as well as the time it took for school staff to contact the trace were also factored into the decision, Erkeneff said.

When a school moves to universal masking, Erkeneff said, the time of nurses and staff is “no longer spent” on contact tracing. More generally, Erkeneff said the trend of halting contact tracing is something the KPBSD leadership is watching.

“In mid-January, with the increase in positive cases of COVID-19, our staff were unable to follow up on contact tracing,” Erkeneff said via email.

Erkeneff confirmed that stopping contact tracing in schools where universal masking is in place will skew close contact data reflected on the district’s COVID-19 dashboard by reducing those numbers. She said the dashboard will still reflect data from people who self-report and at schools where contact tracing is still happening.

As of Thursday, at least 13 of KPBSD’s 42 schools — representing about 2,800 students and staff in the district — were operating with universal masking. To determine whether a school enters or exits Universal Indoor Masking, KPBSD uses the criteria outlined in the district’s COVID-19 mitigation plan.

A “conversation” between district administrators and school site administrators is triggered when a school district meets four of the five criteria set out in the plan. Factors considered include a school community positivity rate of 3% or greater, a student absenteeism rate of 25% or greater, the capacity of local and regional hospitals and intensive care units, the number of cases of COVID-19 of one community per 100,000 people and the impact of school staff absenteeism. rate.

Additionally, under changes announced last month, KPBSD staff and students who test positive and show symptoms of COVID-19 are now allowed to return to school or work as early as five days after tested positive. That’s as long as the symptoms go away for at least 24 hours without the help of medication.

Under the district’s previous iteration of the policy, which was announced Jan. 11, COVID-positive students and staff could return to school or work five days after testing positive, but only if they were asymptomatic.

Schools will still follow the district’s symptom-free protocol and apply multi-level COVID-19 mitigation strategies. Students and staff are also encouraged to take advantage of testing resources made available by the district, such as free at-home testing kits, in-school testing, and testing from community partners.

According to the district’s COVID-19 dashboard, which went live last August, more than 1,650 positive COVID-19 test results have been reported to the district by students and more than 350 positive results have been reported by staff. KPBSD’s COVID-19 Dashboard can be viewed at covid19.kpbsd.org/dashboard.

Contact reporter Ashlyn O’Hara at [email protected]


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