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Contact tracing guidelines Southeast Texas school districts follow to determine which students must quarantine

Not just any interaction qualifies. Determining "close contact" is the key to figuring it out which students could be at risk.

BEAUMONT, Texas — COVID-19 cases are continuing to have an impact at some of the schools in Southeast Texas. Contact tracers from the Port Arthur Health Department say schools are following CDC guidelines to determine who has to quarantine. 

Nederland ISD on Monday reported four positive cases but did not disclose how many students are in quarantine. Hamshire-Fannett ISD closed its campus after three positive cases on Monday forced 105 students into quarantine. 

“We will not return face-to-face tomorrow. We will stay virtual tomorrow,” said Dwaine Augustine, Superintendent of Hamshire-Fannett ISD.

Just last week, Port Neches-Groves ISD had four students test positive for the virus, sending 32 students home to quarantine. So, how do school districts determine which students have to quarantine?

“When a school has a positive case, they notify us, and basically, trace their contacts to find out who they've come in contact with,” said Ronald Fisher, Port Arthur Public Health Planner.

Not just any interaction qualifies. Determining "close contact" is the key to figuring it out which students could be at risk. It's defined as someone who was within 6 feet of an infected person for at least 15 minutes. If a student falls into this category, he or she must quarantine.

When parents receive a call from contact tracers saying their child must quarantine, their first thought is whether their child is positive or negative, according to Superintendent Augustine.

Contact tracers say those who may have been in close contact with someone infected should wait a few days to get tested to avoid a false negative.

“There is an incubation period and according to the time in which they actually come in contact with their person, at least two to three days before they go to get the test,” Fisher said.

Fisher says the most frequent question asked by parents is “can my teen spread the virus?”

“As far we know, they transmit at the same rate as adults," Fisher said.

It may be difficult to stay on top of all the numbers coming from the different school districts. However, plans are in the works for the state to publish a public database with a running tab. The Texas Education Agency says they expect the state to make this number available on Thursday.


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