ODH releases new contact tracing guidelines for school districts

DAYTON, Ohio (WDTN) – The Ohio Department of Health (ODH) has released new contract search guidelines for school districts, removing responsibility for contract search from schools and transferring it to each nobody.

School districts have a choice: continue the universal contact tracing model or replace it with an outbreak-based model. ODH and Miami Valley executives said the suggestion was due to omicron spreading too quickly for previous tracing methods.

“Omicron is nearly ubiquitous in our environment right now, so this new direction makes sense,” said Charles Patterson, Clark County Combined Health District Health Commissioner.

The ODH said its old guidelines have proven less effective in preventing the spread of omicron and hopes many, if not all, districts will make the switch.

“The rapid spread of the omicron variant and its rapid clinical course have in fact made universal contact tracing and case investigation impractical and less impactful,” said ODH chief medical officer Dr Bruce Vanderhoff. .

ODH now encourages schools to follow a cluster or outbreak-based model for contract research in schools. School districts will limit exposure notifications to cases of outbreaks or clusters. The district would emphasize “Mask to Stay, Test to Play” protocols, allowing an asymptomatic student to attend school masked if exposed to COVID-19. From February 4, schools will only report positive cases to local health departments once a week on Fridays.

“We’re not asking parents to guess where exposure might be coming from, what we’re advising parents is that exposure is everywhere,” Dr. Vanderhoff said.

The new guidelines shift the responsibility for contract research from school districts to each individual.

“By the time the lab notifies us and we contact people, exposure notification may be more than a week late, people would simply be quarantined for a day or less, in many cases being notified of the quarantine periods ending, so that certainly makes sense,” Patterson said.

Many local school districts said the changes were a welcome option.

“Our district has been saying for some time now that looking for contracts is something that has become quite overbearing for our staff,” said Scott Marshall, public information officer for Springboro Schools.

Marshall said the transfer of responsibility to students will be a huge burden on staff members. He said many staff were changing jobs, leaving classes and were generally exhausted tracing COVID-19 cases on their own. Masks are strongly recommended for students and staff but are not mandatory.

“I think it’s good for everyone because it will take a huge burden off schools right now, a lot of schools are hemorrhaging because of this, so it will definitely help alleviate that,” Marshall said.

City of Beavercreek schools require everyone inside school buildings to wear masks, regardless of vaccination status, so the new guidelines are a welcome addition to the safety guidelines.

“We already have universal masking, so it doesn’t affect us much, but most kids who can safely wear a mask do so, so we don’t do a lot of contract research as is,” the director said. schools in Beavercreek City. Jeff Madden Student Services.

State health officials and local school districts have said their goal is to keep children in the classroom as safe as possible.

“There are still students who have disabilities or medical conditions for which a mask is not appropriate, so we will work on these cases and work with them, with the possibility that these children can still remain in school. “, said Madden.

Therefore, with immediate effect:

• The Ohio Department of Health recommends that Local Health Departments (LHDs) move from universal contact tracing, case investigation, and exposure notification to a cluster[1]or a model based on epidemics. This strategy prioritizes people living in high-risk settings, such as congregate residential settings (for example, shelters, correctional facilities, and nursing homes) or in certain circumstances such as outbreaks or clusters in specific contexts or in relation to initial cases or clusters associated with new variants, if applicable

• Schools may pause universal contact tracing, but must support LHDs with contact tracing, case investigation, and notification of exposures related to outbreaks or clusters in schools, as determined by LHD. K-12 schools should continue to follow the ODH’s “Mask to Stay, Test to Play” protocol and allow asymptomatic students to attend school while wearing a mask if they were exposed to someone with COVID-19. The best place for children is at school, in person, full time

• ODH will also change the reporting cadence for school cases to weekly. Schools must report positive student and staff cases to their LHDs before the close of business on Friday. LHDs will continue to report on the same weekly cadence. This calendar will start on Friday, February 4. ODH will continue to assess related academic reporting requirements. LHDs should continue to inform and send messages to the general public on what to do after an exposure or a positive test. The attached flowchart can be shared with the public to explain how they should proceed after testing positive for COVID-19 or being exposed to someone who has COVID-19. Now is also a good time to remind the public of the mitigation strategies that work against the transmission of COVID-19 and other infectious diseases.

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