A MATTER OF PRINCIPAL WITH DR. BUZZ INBODEN
As you know, we recently had a student who tested positive for COVID-19. The student came to school feeling only like yearly seasonal allergies had kicked in – no fever, no other symptoms. When other symptoms appeared, the student stayed home and was tested. Of course the test was positive and 15 students who likely experienced direct exposure remain under quarantine until the end of this week. A sad result of the quarantine is that all are missing out on in-person instruction and being together with friends. Additionally, some students missed athletic contests and one missed the opportunity to compete, and likely win, the Mid-State League golf tournament. The hardships that we don’t bring on ourselves are often the most difficult to bear. Overall, our students have faced this situation with maturity and grace.
As might be expected, there has been a lot of mis-information floating around. What follows is a review of our policies, an explanation of our relationship and accountability to the Columbus Public Health Department, some facts about the recent exposure, and some things we should keep in mind as we move forward. Perhaps what follows can address any unanswered questions.
A review of some of our policies as laid out in the Revised Back to School Plan:
Regarding distancing, our plan says the following:
Physical Distancing All Classrooms Will Follow These Guidelines:
- Following the AAP (American Academy of Pediatrics) guidelines, student seating will be placed up to 6’ apart but no less than 3’ apart. Current class sizes allow for this in every classroom. In the vast majority of cases, especially at the lower school, this means approximately 4’-6’ feet apart.
- All desks will face the same direction. Seating will not be arranged to form tables in which students face each other.
- When possible, the sharing of supplies among students will be avoided. When supplies are shared, they will be disinfected between uses.
- Six feet of distancing between adults will be maintained when at all possible. The nature of the teacher to student relationship makes absolute adherence to this impractical, and perhaps undesirable. However, teachers will use common sense when applying distancing practices between themselves and their students.
- Students will be encouraged to maintain distancing at appropriate times. However, the recommendations from the AAP and the UT (University of Toronto) indicate that this is not only impractical to maintain at all times but also undesirable since it affects important social interactions for students.
- Hallways will be one-directional, whenever possible.
In our Back to School Zoom meeting for parents, Mr. McIntosh affirmed that should someone test positive for the virus, persons seated in front, behind, and on each side would most likely be considered exposed and subject to quarantine.
An explanation of our relationship and accountability to the Columbus Public Health Department:
As a school, we are under the auspices of the Columbus Department of Health, and departments of health are empowered by the legislature to make and enforce policy related to quarantines. Title 37, section 3701.13 of the Ohio Revised Code says in part:
The department of health shall have supervision of all matters relating to the preservation of the life and health of the people and have ultimate authority in matter of quarantine and isolation, which it may declare and enforce, when neither exists, and modify, relax or abolish when either has been established…
The Health Department is empowered by law to make the rules, and we are required by law to obey them. Some of their regulations and protocols have changed as more has been learned about the virus. They also have the right to vary the degree of enforcement, given the nature of the cases with which they are dealing. Thus, it is not always about 6’, or 5’11” or 6’6” inches. It is the perceived severity of any given exposure and the proximity of those exposed that drives their final decision regarding quarantines.
The health department wants our students to be safe and we want our students to be safe. As we worked through the whole quarantine issue last week we were able to express our concerns as we think holistically about our students’ well-being. They have listened carefully to our concerns and appeals and reversed their initial rulings. On other matters they held to their position. We have, over the last week, developed and maintained a working relationship with the department, even while disagreeing with each other on some points.
Some facts surrounding the recent positive case and resulting quarantine:
When the Health Department was notified of our first case, they required that over 70 students and 4 faculty be quarantined. After considerable discussion with the Health Department it was determined that quarantining those in close proximity (in front, behind, and on each side) was more appropriate than the mass quarantine initially ordered. The list was finally revised to only 15. This is consistent with what we had come to expect based on our interactions with the department over the summer and what had been communicated to school families. As the process moved on, we made other appeals on behalf of quarantined students based on actual distances from the ill student, but the department believed that the quarantine decisions must be made based on “proximity.” Proximity has been defined for the present as those who are seated in front, behind and on each side of the COVID-positive student.
Here are some things we have learned and should keep in mind as we look to the future:
- Keep on doing what you are doing. Our students and their families are working hard and making sacrifices for the good of the community (even if some don’t personally agree with what is being asked.) We continue to remain thankful for you all, as you put others before yourself, and “so fulfill the law of Christ.” There have been no known positive cases as a result of this exposure, so what we have all been doing has been working.
- Everyone who feels the least bit sick should stay home, even if they “recognize” the symptoms and think they know where they came from. At first, our positive case had no fever, and only common allergy symptoms experienced each fall. All parents must agree to keep their students home when they are aware that the students are even slightly sick. All students must honestly evaluate how they feel each day and stay home when they do not feel well, even if they think they know the reason they feel poorly.
- The Health Department is free to consider extenuating factors in addition to distance when determining who must quarantine.
- A quarantine is 14 days with the day of exposure as day zero. The day after is day one, and so on. That is non-negotiable. Having a negative COVID test after a few days does not change anything. Sufficient time has not passed for the virus to be detectable. It takes 14 days to be reasonably certain that the disease will not develop.
- Those infected with the virus face a mandatory 10-day isolation period that begins on the date symptoms first appear. After 10 days, if there are no major symptoms, the person may return to work or school. Ironically, in nearly all cases this means the infected person returns to work or school before the persons quarantined due to the exposure. (See #4 above.)
- We must all be judicious about where we go and with whom we associate.
One final thought:
Any of us could be asymptomatic spreaders of the virus. It is only those who are symptomatic that generate a quarantine. This is a time for humility, caution, support and love for each other. It is what we Warriors do best.
Blessings to you all, it is good to know that the last page of the Bible says that God wins!
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