A look at contact tracing in Eau Claire schools

Published: Sep. 7, 2021 at 6:31 PM CDT
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EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) - With schools back in session, students and parents are once again worrying about COVID-19 potentially spreading.

According to the Eau Claire Area School District (ECASD), 39 students and staff tested positive for the virus between Aug. 29 and Sept. 4.

The district’s Executive Director of Student Services, Kaying Xiong, said when someone tests positive for COVID-19 they have to isolate for at least 10 days. They can’t return to school until they’re asymptomatic, including 24 hours fever free without using medicine.

As to whether their classmates have to quarantine, that depends on how close they got to the infected student and their vaccination status.

“We have to look at how many students were with them within the six feet and more than 15 cumulative minutes during their infectious period,” Xiong said.

She said people who are unvaccinated have to quarantine for 14 days. Fully vaccinated students and staff can remain in school but must get tested and quarantine if they start experiencing symptoms.

“Their risk of spreading to others is lower. The important second part of that is that they get tested somewhere between three and five days after exposure and that they then wear a mask in public,” said Audrey Boerner with the Eau Claire City-County Health Department.

Eau Claire schools require everyone mask up indoors regardless of vaccination status.

For students who have to miss two weeks, Xiong said teachers will work with them ensuring they don’t fall too far behind.

“Will that look exactly the same as when that child was sitting in the classroom? Absolutely not,” she said. “But we know that with the resources that we have, we are all doing our very best to make sure that the student stays connected during the 14 days that they are on quarantine.”

While the district is relying on parents and students to keep sick kids home and avoid exposing others, Xiong said there are certain things people should look for so they don’t confuse COVID-19 symptoms with seasonal allergies.

“We say, you know, ‘Are these symptoms above what is typically normal for this child?’ So unless you’re developing symptoms, you know, allergic reactions to something in the fall for the first time, many families know that their children typically experience some of these things,” she said.

Xiong said it’s important people get tested. The district offers testing with parental consent for students under 18.

She also said schools are keeping kids in smaller groups to maximize space.

Xiong added ECASD only alerts parents of another student’s positive test if their child is considered a close contact.

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