Report: High schools more likely to have larger outbreaks; how you’ll find out if your child is affected

SPOKANE, Wash. — The safety of your kids and school staff is the top priority for school districts.

Any inkling of sickness is taken a little more seriously.

“Normal years, we’re still going to want to send kids home when they’re sick. This year, that’s even more important,” said Becky Doughty, the health director for Spokane Public Schools.

A new report from the Washington Department of Health and the Institute for Disease Modeling says high schools are more likely to have larger outbreaks compared to elementary of middle schools.

That can be of concern because SPS is bringing those older students back to class on Monday, knowing its harder to keep track of things than it is in elementary schools.

“Those seating charts are important to those contact tracing nurses. We know which kids are sitting around any students who may have tested positive for COVID,” Doughty said.

That’s not as possible in high schools and middle schools as students go to different classes every day.

So, what happens if a student possibly has COVID?

Doughty says the student gets sent to a health room and waits in an isolated room. Parents are then contact to come get their student. The school will then recommend a COVID test. The district’s contact tracers will then get to work in figuring out who was a close contact.

If there is a positive case in a school, the district will notify every family about that a positive case. If a student is exposed, the school will then send a separate letter home telling families what to do.

To clarify – close contact is considered being within six feet of someone infected for more than 15 minutes.

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The virus is unpredictable and can be transmitted anywhere at anytime.

As of this writing, 10 bus drivers are out because of COVID, contracting it outside of work. Another nine drivers are in quarantine waiting for test results.

The district says it’s working on contact tracing right now.

Per Spokane Regional Health District guidelines, students who sat in the row directly behind the driver should be in quarantine.

As schools and the health district work through situations like this, more teachers will be vaccinated.

However, that can only do so much. The new report says students are more likely the ones who bring the virus in.

“Vaccines against COVID-19 provide high levels of protection to recipients, but because students are likely to be a main source of introductions, vaccinating all staff will not prevent COVID from entering schools,” a release read. “Vaccinating staff can also reduce the size of typical outbreaks, but the impact is less than other countermeasures.”

Those other countermeasures are the same practices many have been doing since the start of the pandemic – washing hands, wearing masks and watching their distance.

SPS is keeping track of COVID cases within its schools. So far since the start of the school year, there have been 10 cases originating from inside schools.

To find out how to check which schools have COVID cases and what the cumulative numbers are, click here.

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