UCPS will end contact tracing and quarantine policies

UNION COUNTY, North Carolina — In an 8-1 vote Tuesday night, the Union County Public Schools Board of Education approved an end to contact tracing and quarantine requirements.

Citing a joint resolution approved with Union County commissioners, approved last month, the council said there was now a marked drop in COVID-19 cases.

Falling cases were one of the criteria for ending contact tracing and quarantines.

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Starting Feb. 7, UCPS will end contact tracing and quarantine policies

The council, citing the never-ending nature of the pandemic and the desire to keep children in school, voted 8-1

Council members say the decision has the support of the county health director

In a document from Union County Health Director Dennis Joyner, posted on the council’s online records platform, he noted the drop in COVID-19 cases.

“Over the past week, Union County has experienced a decline in the number of COVID-19 cases,” the statement said.

You can read the full document here.

The vote comes after board members and commissioners met on January 25 to vote on a new joint resolution, saying they would end the policies when cases drop.

“Independent of NCDHHS action, we anticipate changes to our approach to school quarantine and contact tracing procedures when we determine that cases in Union County are declining in the current surge. We expect this to happen in the coming weeks. Our aim will be to develop a collaborative approach that allows children to stay in school if they are not positive or symptomatic – the new approach is being developed and will be provided to the public in the coming week(s)” , said the resolution read.

You can read the full joint resolution here.

The new policy will come into effect on Monday, February 7. School staff will notify parents of changes to the policy, its impact on students, and the options parents have to prevent students from attending school if they are exposed to COVID-19.

“I move that Union County Public Schools end contact tracing and quarantine requirements beginning this Monday, February 7,” said Vice President Kathy Heintel, who introduced the motion.

Board member Gary Sides said despite the vote, they wanted to make it clear that students and staff who test positive should still stay away from schools.

“We are not changing our policy of students or staff who test positive with the virus, with COVID, allowed in the building, on the property. They are yet to be isolated. There has been no change. Let me be very clear, like if you have the flu, stay home. If you test positive and you are sick, you stay home,” Sides said after the motion was filed.

Board member John Kirkpatrick was the only one to vote against, saying it was too early to end mitigation efforts.

“We have a 41% HIV rate, in the county, and we don’t have a mask mandate, which helps keep kids in school. Agreed. And we are preparing to eliminate contact tracing in our schools, the only measures we have to deal with this pandemic,” Kirkpatrick said.

“I think it can be a very dangerous decision right now to remove the only measures we have to keep children safe, not only children but also to keep families safe,” Kirkpatrick continued. “I don’t think that’s a wise decision.”

Heintel hit back at her claim, saying county schools were isolating positive cases among students and staff. She also said several other states have taken similar steps to end certain COVID-19 policies.

“It’s not new in the United States to do this,” Heintel said.

Several board members have repeatedly said the never-ending nature of the pandemic is part of the reason they want to end contact tracing and quarantines. They have said in public meetings over the past few months that the policies are keeping what they call healthy children and staff out of schools and away from education.

These concerns were reflected in the language of the joint resolution, approved last month.

“It is becoming increasingly clear that this virus is not going away and that we are going to have to learn to live with it in a way that does not unreasonably risk our children’s education and mental health,” the agency said. common resolution in part.

This is not the first time the council has made changes to contact tracing and quarantine procedures. Earlier this school year, the board voted to have school staff no longer take the lead in contact tracing and quarantines, saying it was the duty of the county health department. After a standoff with the state, the issue was resolved and a working agreement was reached with the health department to run the practice.

On Tuesday night, board members said the policy change had Joyner’s approval. Spectrum News 1 has asked Union County to provide an update on Joyner’s position on ending contact tracing and quarantine policies.

The statement detailing the declining cases, provided online by the county health department, did not contain any endorsement or criticism of the council’s decision or the planned motion.

Minutes later, the board again voted 8 to 1 to keep masks optional in Union County schools until next month. Kirkpatrick was the only vote against.

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