Superintendent’s Report to the School Committee, 1/5/22

New CDC Guidance for COVID Isolation and Quarantine

On December 27, 2021, the Center for Disease Control issued new guidance relative to the amount of time COVID-positive individuals need to isolate and unvaccinated close-contacts need to quarantine.  The Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education and Department of Public Health released Updated Guidance on Responding to COVID-19 Scenarios on December 30th that reflects the CDC’s guidance.  Earlier this week, we sent the following guidance to families that reflect the new guidance:

Guidelines for Positive COVID cases:

Positive cases will now isolate for 5 days (instead of 10 days) and can return to school/work/regular activities on day 6 so long as they are either asymptomatic, or their symptoms have improved, they are fever-free for 24 hours, and they continue to wear a mask through day 10.  There is no need for public health nurses or school nurses to verify symptom improvement has occurred by day 5 with cases (students/parents).  Everyone should know to stay home if they are sick with fever, cough, congestion, sore throat, etc.  When students return to school and school-associated activities, they will continue to follow the mask mandate currently in effect and will need to socially distance while at lunch for an additional 5-days.  Both schools have designated spaces for students to socially distance during lunch.

Calculating the Quarantine and Post-Quarantine calendar 

Day 0Symptom Onset
Day 5Last full day of isolation
Day 6Return to school following the school masking policy Socially distanced Lunch
Day 11Follow the school masking policy  Lunch as preferred 
Quarantine Guidelines for Asymptomatic Close Contacts:

Asymptomatic, fully vaccinated close contacts: Close contacts who are asymptomatic and

fully vaccinated are exempt from testing and quarantine response protocols.  At this time, fully vaccinated is defined as two weeks following the completion of the Pfizer or Moderna series or two weeks following a single dose of Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen vaccine.

Unvaccinated, School-Based Close Contacts: Test and Stay will remain in place for unvaccinated students and adults who are identified as school-based close contacts. The testing period has been shortened to 5-days (from 7 days) from the last known exposure date. Students who participate in Test and Stay will be eligible to attend school and school-based activities as long they continue to receive a negative test result.  Students who are eligible to participate in this program will be notified by a school administrator or their school nurse. 

Unvaccinated, Out-of-school close contacts: If you are unvaccinated and have been identified as an out-of-school close contact, you are not eligible for test and stay, but the quarantine period has been reduced to 5-days (from 7 days). You can exit quarantine on day 6 so long as you can produce a Negative COVID test and you have remained symptom-free.  Although the PCR test is the most accurate form of testing and is advised, antigen-testing will be accepted.  Proof of negative results needs to be forwarded to the school nurse prior to returning to school (copy of lab results or picture of the negative test).

Symptomatic Close Contacts: Please refer to the DESE/DPH protocols for symptomatic individuals. 

At-Home Covid Testing: At-home tests are unofficial results and the local board of health cannot follow up with at-home tests and perform appropriate contact tracing. Positive cases identified through an at-home test should isolate for 5 days and notify their own close contacts. PCR testing within 48 hours of a positive at-home test is advised for confirmation of the at-home test result.

Rapid Test and Mask Distribution to All Masconomet Employees

On December 22nd, the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education made a supply of KN95 masks available to interested school districts in Massachusetts.  Masconomet received its supply of 10,000 KN95 masks on December 29th.  Thanks to Asst. Superintendent Jeff Sands for picking up the masks and delivering them during the holiday week.

On December 29th, DESE announced that it had procured rapid COVID-19 test kits for all K-12 employees in the state.  These tests were made available for pickup on January 1st.  Thanks to Keith Starosciak, our HVAC Technician for volunteering to pick up the tests on New Years’ Day.  One test and 30 masks were made available for all employees to pick up at Masconomet on Sunday, January 2nd from noon to 3:00 pm at Central Office.  Thanks to Patty Bullard for helping me with distributing tests and masks to over 100 employees who came to pick them up.  Jackie Bolduc and I then spent Monday January 3rd manning a location in the high school for any employee who was not available on Sunday to pick up their tests and masks.  As of this afternoon, over 200 employees have received their supply of tests and masks.

COVID Case Report

As we return from the holiday break, we are seeing the impact of the latest COVID surge on our school operations.  The latest challenge is getting accurate information of positive cases.  In the past, we have only reported positive cases that came as a result of a PCR COVID test.  These are the tests that are confirmed at a lab or doctor’s office.  Positive PCR test results are cataloged in MAVEN, which is a state-wide COVID-tracking database.  For the past two years, our practice has been to track these cases that were reported to us through our local public health departments via MAVEN.  This week’s COVID Case report is consistent with that practice.  However, I must say that the numbers I have received from our local public health departments are not reflective of what we are seeing and hearing in our school health offices and are very likely to be underreported.  For example, we have had over 200 students absent at the high school and 60 students absent at the middle school today, January 5th.  These numbers are dramatically higher than the “official” counts I’m going to present here.  Because of this discrepancy, I’ve decided to temporarily suspend the afternoon calls to the community reporting COVID cases until I have better information on our actual case numbers.

Since my last report on December 15th, we have seen an additional 55 positive cases.  Twenty-nine of these cases were reported over the holiday break (between 12/23/21 and 1/2/22), so they were not in school while infectious. 

Looking at the Case Counts by School and Month, for the month of January, we are at a reported 34 positive cases. 

Of the 27 middle school cases in December and January, 15 were reported after December 23rd, and 17 of the 25 high school cases in December and January were after December 23rd.  Most of these students, therefore were not in school while infectious and many have already completed their isolation requirement and returned to school.

Fourteen of the reported COVID cases in January are faculty.  The number of absent faculty has been climbing all week.  Today, January 5th, we had 17 faculty members absent at the High School and 12 at the Middle School.  This is up from a total of 12 absent staff members combined for the Middle and High Schools on Monday, 1/3. We will continue to monitor both of staff and student absence numbers over the coming days.  Our goal is to remain fully in-person as long as it is possible; however, if these trends continue we may need to consider closing school if we cannot adequately staff our schools. According to the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, days closed due to COVID will be considered the same as a weather-related closure and will need to be made up at the end of the year in June.

Published by mascosuper

Superintendent of the Masconomet Regional School District

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