Quarantine protocol approved for USD 457

Meghan Flynn
Garden City Telegram
Flags blow in the wind outside the USD 457 Educational Support Center, 1205 N. Fleming St.

Quarantine guidelines for positive COVID-19 cases were approved for USD 457 at the Board of Education's regular meeting Monday.

The Board unanimously approved the guidelines in regards to if the district moves to the Level 2 or Level 1 in their Operational Level, where face coverings are recommended rather than required.

The quarantine guidelines state that when a positive case is confirmed, close contact tracing begins 48 hours preceding when that person became symptomatic or 48 hours preceding a sample collection if a person is asymptomatic.

This includes any day or days the positive person attended school prior to the 48 hours of symptom onset.

A close contact is any person within 6 ft. of a student for longer than 10 minutes without a mask on.

Anyone who fits the criteria must quarantine for 14 days following last contact with the positive person and may not attend any school or athletics activities.

If a person fits the close contact criteria but was wearing a mask and they remain asymptomatic, they are excused from quarantine as long as remain asymptomatic.

Additionally, if they wear a mask at all times while on school grounds they can participate in school activities or athletics.

Classrooms where the positive case was would follow the same guidelines as in the Yellow Status classroom guidelines.

There is the possibility that a person who has to quarantine may qualify for a shortened quarantine if they follow certain criteria.

Quarantine could be shortened to seven days if the person is asymptomatic and they get a PCR test at the Finney County Heath Department. If the test comes back negative and they don't exhibit any symptoms, they can be released once the results of the test are received.

Colleen Drees, Finney County Health Department director, said the test has to be a PCR because it's the most sensitive, accurate test on the market.

Quarantine could be shortened to 10 days if a person exhibits no symptoms during the 10 days. 

Steve Karlin, USD 457 superintendent, said he appreciates the Health Department's approach to quarantine guidelines as other school districts are quarantining whole schools or whole classrooms from a single positive case.

"The fact that they're willing to draw the circle pretty small and face how we go forward ... I so much appreciate that," he said. "If we want to have the opportunity to try more limits on wearing masks then ... we've got to do our part in helping to manage and mitigate that and hopefully that gives us a little insight into what the summer and next year could look like – because our numbers, our community numbers and our school numbers ... are telling us it's time to make a change in a level."

Additionally, Karlin said if they do drop to Level 2 or Level 1 where masks are just recommended, individual teachers do have the ability to require face masks in their classroom if they feel like a mask is a protection they need especially if they are high risk or they have a family member that is.

"Regardless of which of these approaches we move forward with, the mask is a level of protection against having to do quarantine, I think that's the way the Health Department is interpreting that," he said. "If they chose to wear a mask and there is an exposure, wearing a mask, unless you start developing symptoms, will prevent you from being quarantined."

The quarantine guidelines do not change anything about the district's current level, Karlin said. If any change is made to move down a level it wouldn't go into effect until May 3.

"We will follow our process on Thursday and evaluate with current information," he said. "If we have a change it will be for Monday, and that will give us time to make sure that we can make the staff and families, what this will look like if we move out of Level 2 for next week."