What happens if there is a confirmed or probable case of covid-19 on the LA campus?
The LA Health Center may be notified of a confirmed or presumptive case one of a few ways. Sometimes we may be among the first to know, but there is no guarantee of this. The notification process will involve some combination of the testing lab, the CDC, the Department of Education Nursing Consultant, the student’s primary care provider, the student’s family, and even students themselves. Regardless, when we have confirmation of a positive case on campus – we will notify the LA community immediately, and activate the next phase of our mitigation plans.
The next steps at LA would begin with tracing the potential contacts that the student may have had while on campus. This will involve asking questions like: which classrooms was the person in? Which bus did the student take? Which teams or clubs are they part of? etc. We will gather as much information as we can through this process in preparation for speaking with a CDC case manager later the same day.
The definition of who should be considered a ‘close contact’ of a covid-positive patient in a school setting has tightened recently. A ‘close contact’ is defined as anyone who was within 6 feet of an infected person for at least 15 minutes; indoors or outdoors; masked or unmasked. The window of contagion starts 2 days before illness onset (or, for asymptomatic cases, 2 days prior to positive specimen collection) until the time the patient is isolated.
So that means that LA will need to consider anyone who was in class with the covid-positive student to be a close contact; as well as the teachers from those classes; teammates; other students on the bus – any and all of these may be considered ‘close contacts’, depending on the duration and type of interaction that was shared. Anyone identified as a ‘close contact’ will need to quarantine for 14 days, regardless of whether they get a negative test result during that time. You cannot “test out of quarantine.”
It is also important to note that contacts of ‘close contacts’ do not have to quarantine per CDC guidance. There is no scientific data suggesting that secondary contacts pose any greater risk of having COVID than the general public at this time. A mantra we learned from Dr. Russ we keep repeating here is: “a contact of a contact is not a contact”! In other words, if YOU are in contact with someone else who has been in ‘close contact’ with a covid-positive person – YOU are not considered a contact.
As we move further into the fall, we will all be faced with a number of real-time decisions about whether to send our students to school each day, or to have them tested, or wondering when it is safe to return to school, etc. We can only make the best choices if we do so in collaboration. Our goal is to keep our students–your students–in school as safely as possible, for as long as possible. We are deeply grateful for your support in keeping the LA community safe.
To help you in the decision making process, I’ve attached a few documents that we are relying on for guidance in the HC. They include info about returning to school safely, how health providers assess risk, health prescreening, and guidance on when and how to return to work after exposure.
I hope this information is helpful to you and your families as we all do our best to navigate these new waters. Please reach out to the LA Health Center at any time with questions or insights. Take good care and stay Safe.
Nurse Eric Duffy