Rising COVID Cases Prompt Concerns Over School Testing Criteria
November 25, 2020
By Jon King / email@example.com
CORRECTION: A previous version of this story said the first instance of a Livingston County K-12 school having an outbreak was the week of November 23rd. In fact, it was October 19th.
As cases of coronavirus continue to rise across the state and locally, there have been questions concerning just who is supposed to receive testing, especially when it comes to school students.
Several teachers in Livingston County have expressed concern that students who have been exposed to COVID-19, either through a sibling or other family member, are being allowed to return to their classrooms following a quarantine period, but without receiving a test to confirm they are virus-free. When asked about that issue, the Livingston County Health Department says that it follows guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to determine return to school protocols for all students exposed to COVID-19. Public Information Officer Natasha Radke says that as of July, the CDC no longer recommended a test-based strategy, but rather a time-based approach for individuals to assess when individuals are released from isolation and quarantine. “A time-based approach for isolation and quarantine release does not require a COVID-19 test to return to work or school.” The exception to this, according to Radke, would be “if an individual exposed to COVID-19 develops symptoms; testing would be recommended in this situation.”
It should also be noted that CDC last month quietly removed a statement from its website that stressed "the importance of reopening America's schools.” As Education Week reported, “The agency's decision to remove the document comes as virus rates surge in states around the country and as educators and epidemiologists debate the role schools play in spreading it in their communities. Some scientists have argued that schools have been too conservative about returning to in-person learning. Others say there is much that is unknown about COVID-19 and about children's ability to transmit it inside and outside of school buildings.”
That debate has educators concerned about the criteria by which students and staff can return to school. As it stands now, those who actually become ill with COVID-19 can only return after being fever-free for 24 hours without the use of fever-reducing medications, see an improvement in symptoms such as cough and shortness of breath and at least 10 days have passed since the individual first had symptoms. If an individual tested positive for COVID-19, but was asymptomatic, they are able to return after 10 days have passed since their test collection date. Radke says that once these measures have been met, “an individual is no longer considered to be contagious and are able to resume normal activities” However, if students and staff have only been exposed to COVID-19, they can return to school after 14 days have passed from the date of the last exposure to the COVID-19 individual and if they do not have symptoms of COVID-19.
It should be noted that in-school transmission of the coronavirus has, so far, been relatively low in Livingston County schools. However, this week for the second time a local primary school was included on the state's outbreak list, defined as having two or more COVID-19 cases who may have shared exposure on school grounds and are from different households. St. Patrick’s School in Brighton reports three students with confirmed cases. Also included on the list was Cleary University in Genoa Township with seven cases. However, they had appeared appeared previously on the list and transitioned to remote learning a week before the state health department ordered all college and high school students to stop in-person learning until December 8th. The previous instance was on the October 19th report, when Howell High School was listed with two infected students.
Radke says that if a student develops symptoms of COVID-19, the health department advises guardians to keep the child home from school and contact the primary care provider, who can then diagnose, treat, and refer for testing if needed. Guardians are encouraged to seek medical care if they are concerned that their child may have developed symptoms of COVID-19, which in children include:
• Nasal congestion or rhinorrhea
• New loss of taste or smell
• Sore throat
• Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
• Abdominal pain
• Nausea or vomiting
• Poor appetite or poor feeding
Radke says that while the Livingston County Health Department does not offer COVID-19 testing, they do provide information about testing locations.
Photo - A technician shows a nasal swab used for COVID-19 testing. (AP Photo/Jean-Francois Badias)