COVID Post December Break Update From Director of Health Services
I would like to begin by first expressing my sincere gratitude to all of the WPS families and staff for their continued support and partnership throughout this pandemic. My deepest appreciation to the WPS nursing team who have tirelessly dedicated their time and focus toward this pandemic in addition to all of their routine school nurse duties. We continue to move forward successfully because of you, thank you.
Our mission throughout this pandemic has been to utilize a strategy that combines the ever changing science with best practice and current data. In light of a new variant which presents with increased transmissibility, our focus on the data has never been more critical to our success. We began this year, not unlike last year with a focus on testing. Our robust testing platform has allowed us to work towards the WPS goal of 180 days of in person instruction. While surging case rates have many questioning our commitment to keeping schools open, our measured mitigation strategies allow us to focus on academics but more importantly the mental health component that is severely needed during this time of lasting isolation. School provides a safe place for engagement and learning, and a routine that is dependable in a time of unpredictability.
The goal of health services continues to be early identification and isolation of COVID positive individuals. We accomplish this through testing and self report. Our success is evident in our COVID dashboard, which not unlike the Weston BOH dashboard reflects a significant uptick in case rates in accordance with an increase in less restrictive social gatherings during the winter break. While a shift from 17 to 138 cases is alarming, these numbers are more reflective of self report than identification in school. Many of these cases were in isolation on the 3rd and remain in isolation now. Furthermore, 138 cases reflects 4.2% of our district population which is either in alignment with or lower than many surrounding districts. This drastic shift reminds us to remain steadfast in our vigilance including the maintenance of our mitigation strategies, including masking, and continued outreach to promote vaccination, including boosters for those who are eligible. Vaccination is the only proven mitigation strategy that significantly reduces the severity of symptoms, the total number of hospitalizations and decreases mortality.
In efforts to identify cases earlier, we front loaded our testing platforms after the December break toward the beginning of the week. This strategy enabled us to identify an additional 29 COVID positive individuals and support them into and through isolation. We offered testing to all staff prior to the start of school. Over 250 staff tested and of those only 12 were identified and isolated prior to school start. We conducted follow-up testing on athletes Monday and Tuesday which demonstrated our decision to postpone practice and meets for three of our teams was successful in preventing additional transmission. Here again, our focus on the data allows us to move forward strategically, but safely so students can engage in the activities that bring them hope.
Our focus on the data also allows us to identify potential cracks in our layered mitigation approach, so they can be corrected early as was seen in the Middle School this past week. Through contact tracing efforts we identified that spacing in some of the classrooms was not in alignment with the three foot standard. Once identified, this deviation was corrected with the support of staff and administration. All students were placed in test-to-stay, allowing us to monitor for any potential transmission. This strategy accounts for the large number of test-to-stay participants at WMS reported after the December break.
As we enter into week two of the new year, we will continue to trend the data with front loading of testing toward the beginning of the week. We will continue to collaborate with the Weston BOH to ensure our practices and approach are successful. We will continue to rely on you to self report positive cases and to keep your ill children home and seek testing through us. Most importantly, we will continue to rely on you to entrust the education and safety of your children with us.
Reminders as we head into week two post December break:
- If your child has tested positive for COVID-19 within the past 90 days (on or after October 11, 2021), they should not participate in weekly safety screens (pool testing)
- All athletes who fall within this category are exempted from their weekly requirement
- If your child is sick, please keep them home and contact myself or your building-based school nurse for testing options
- If you are reporting a positive rapid antigen test, please forward a screenshot to either myself or your building-based school nurse
- Notifications are sent to all families who are either isolating or identified as close contacts, if you do not receive a notification, your child does not need to isolate or quarantine
- Please direct any COVID related questions to either myself or your building-based school nurse. While the response time may be delayed slightly due to daily case management, we will respond
- We have masks available at all levels, please have your child request a mask from the front office if needed
Again, thank you for your continued partnership and support.
Jamy Gaynor, Ed.D., MS, RN, NCSN
Director of Health Services
Weston Public Schools