Breaking down local schools’ policies on COVID-19 contact tracing

Published: Aug. 23, 2021 at 6:48 PM EDT
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EVANS, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - As COVID cases in schools rise, parents are also asking more questions like: What happens your child is exposed and how does the school notify you? At Evans High School 46 students tested positive. More than any other school in the district.

There is a lot of frustration from some parents who do not think their Columbia County School is doing enough to protect their students. But it really all comes down to how the district defines exposure.

The definition for COVID exposure is different between Columbia and Richmond County.

Richmond County follows Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines. In the classroom, close contact is within 3 feet of a positive student, but if both students are correctly wearing masks, neither has to quarantine.

Columbia County’s guidelines nearly mirror those requirements. The biggest difference is the mask requirement.

Here’s a demonstration of an unmasked positive student in Columbia County schools:

I’m student A. I’ve tested positive for coronavirus and I’m not wearing a mask. Student B is wearing a mask. Student C is not wearing a mask. Because we’re 3 feet from each other, Student C is the only student notified to quarantine.

So based on Columbia County guidelines, students who are masked or more than 3 feet away are not considered exposed and they cannot expose someone else.

Here’s another example of a masked positive student:

I’m Student A. I’ve tested positive for coronavirus, but because I’m wearing a mask, neither Student B or C is notified that they’re exposed because it does not qualify as exposure.

So parents who may be frustrated by not getting COVID exposure notifications, it’s likely because by Columbia County school district definition, they were not exposed.

The Columbia County school district says the second a positive case is reported to the school, contact tracing starts immediately. And following their COVID response guidelines, they have done everything they said they would to protect students.

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