What happens when students test positive for COVID-19 as more schools open?

Posted at 5:15 PM, Jul 28, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-28 17:15:01-04

We have already seen students participating in athletic programs and summer school diagnosed with COVID-19. As schools prepare to return to in-person learning, it is inevitable we will see more cases. What will the processes be for responding?

RELATED: 2 students attending in-person summer classes in Detroit test positive for virus

7 Action News visited Novi Meadows Middle School to talk about the district’s plans. There they showed us how they set up desks as they work to plan. One room shows a social distancing layout, with desks 6-feet apart. Only about 12 students fit in the room with this layout, leaving it only possible with a hybrid in-person and virtual schedule. Another room shows what it will look like with a full-time school schedule. Desks are about 3-feet apart. Social distancing is not possible.

They are preparing to survey parents about which option they prefer.

“Nobody is coming out and giving us hard and fast rules to work by. Everything is a recommendation, best practice, or we think this will work,” said Dr. Steve Matthews, superintendent of the Novi Community School District.

Matthews says prevention also makes it easier to respond when a student does become ill. Under Novi’s plan if a student is diagnosed they and any students that live with them will have to quarantine for 14 days.

Families of children at least from the same classroom will be notified with a letter that, due to privacy rules, they will not share the child’s identity. The Health Department will do contact tracing. To assist in contact tracing, the Novi Community School District will have students sit in assigned seats.

“What we suggest is that schools do seating charts so we know who is seated within 6-feet of students. That will make it easier for our case investigation team and contact tracing team,” said Calandra Anderson, a supervisor in Quality and Processing at the Oakland County Health Department.

Anderson says contact tracers will reach out to anyone known to be within 6-feet of the sick student for 15 minutes or more. She warns if a student becomes ill who has been in close contact with numerous students, entire classes or even schools could have to quarantined.

“We’ll look at that from the perspective of what actually happened to determine whether we are able to find out who those close contacts are,” Anderson said.

Supt. Matthews says with processes limiting how many people students have close contact with, they believe they will be able to prevent the spread of the virus.

“We believe we will be able to prevent mass closures of classes or buildings,” Matthews said.

The Oakland County Health Department says it will also be assisting schools in its area with testing to monitor and respond to outbreaks.

“Testing connected to schools will be a priority,” Anderson said.

Additional Coronavirus information and resources:

Click here for a page with resources including a COVID-19 overview from the CDC, details on cases in Michigan, a timeline of Governor Gretchen Whitmer's orders since the outbreak, coronavirus' impact on Southeast Michigan, and links to more information from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, the CDC and the WHO.

View a global coronavirus tracker with data from Johns Hopkins University.

See complete coverage on our Coronavirus Continuing Coverage page.

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