On August 18, WCPS announced that it would be sending out alerts when an individual who has recently been on a school campus has since tested positive for COVID-19. The district also republicized its protocols and shared more details about cleaning and sanitizing efforts. Since that time, the district has received a number of follow-up questions regarding its protocols.
To support our staff, families, and the public we felt it would be helpful to release the following FAQ:
What is the expectation for health screenings, masks and social distancing?
All parents, staff and visitors shall participate in Health Screenings to remain on a WCPS campus, which includes answering three attestation questions specific to COVID-19. All students and school staff have been provided five washable/reusable masks. There will be some instances where someone has a verified exemption, such as a medical condition, which will allow them to be on a WCPS campus without a mask. Unless they have a verified exemption, all students, staff and visitors are required to wear masks on campuses and school buses. All adults are required to maintain 6 feet social distancing from each other and from students. Students social distance to the maximum extent possible.
What cleaning and sanitizing efforts has WCPS put in place?
WCPS continues to use special state and federal funding to purchase cleaning equipment and supplies to support sanitization and disinfectant efforts at schools. Every school has been provided disinfectant cleaning equipment that can be used daily to disinfect both the air and contact surfaces in all of the classrooms, common areas, restrooms, and other areas where people have been. Additionally, similar disinfectant cleaning equipment has been purchased for daily cleaning of buses. Classroom supplies continue being purchased to support teacher and staff efforts to sanitize desks and other contact surfaces in between students. At this time, teachers have been provided refillable hand sanitizer, wipes and spray cleaners, which are refilled and resupplied as needed. Hand sanitizer stations are provided to all of the schools for placement in key areas of their campus.
Why is the district posting a weekly WCPS COVID-19 Dashboard?
While general notices are not required, we believe with the return of students and staff that a school community should be informed when an individual who has tested positive for COVID-19 has recently been on a school campus. In addition to the WCPS COVID-19 Dashboard, families at an impacted school will receive a notification via the district’s call system. NOTE: While the district will not release confidential student or staff information, “close contacts” (individuals within 6 feet for more than 15 minutes) who may have been potentially exposed to a person with COVID-19 will be directly notified.
What variables are considered in determining if a case is added to the WCPS COVID-19 Dashboard?
The most critical variable in determining if a case is added to the WCPS COVID-19 Dashboard is the timeframe, which has a window spanning several days and takes into account when an individual began experiencing symptoms, was tested for COVID-19, and was last on a WCPS campus.
Why doesn’t WCPS provide more specifics in its COVID-19 Dashboard or publicly report statistics specific to students, parents, staff members or visitors who have tested positive for COVID-19?
While COVID-19 is on the minds of everyone, and understandably so, a person’s individual medical information is their own. WCPS will not release any details in its COVID-19 Dashboard or create any type of statistical data for public reporting which, through the process of elimination, may lead to the identification of an individual that has COVID-19. WCPS will also make every effort to prevent creating an environment where upon return from quarantine a student may be bullied by their classmates, a staff member may be ostracized by their peers, or a person may experience shame or some other negative feeling simply because they had gotten sick or diagnosed with COVID-19.
Why aren’t close contacts or quarantines reported on the WCPS COVID-19 Dashboard?
Being quarantined for being a “close contact” and having COVID-19 are not the same thing. As such, WCPS will not create any type of statistical data for public reporting about students or staff who are “close contacts” and asked to quarantine and self-monitor due to a potential exposure to COVID-19 at school, home, or in the community. WCPS will however include information on its dashboard if an individual who was recently on a WCPS campus tests positive for COVID-19 during their first week of quarantine.
Why is WCPS not reporting cases for virtual students or staff approved for teleworking who test positive for COVID-19?
Our WCPS COVID-19 Dashboard serves as a public health awareness tool for all of the students, staff, parents and visitors who are physically coming on to our campuses. As there is community spread of COVID-19, it is a fact that there are going to be some WCPS students, staff and family members not coming on to our campuses who test positive for COVID-19. WCPS will only report cases when an individual who has tested positive for COVID-19 has recently been on a school campus.
I was at a school reported on the WCPS COVID-9 Dashboard. Does this mean I was exposed to someone with COVID-19?
As a part of the district’s response, any “close contacts” who were potentially exposed will be personally contacted and told to quarantine for 14 days and self-monitor. This means if you were at a school where an individual that tested positive was on the campus and you were not directly notified, then you are not considered a “close contact”.
WCPS has regularly reported COVID-19 cases since the start of the school year. Does this mean that schools are having the biggest issues in our county with COVID-19?
Cases of COVID-19 are not something new in Wayne County and the WCPS COVID-19 Dashboard is not highlighting a new problem that is occurring at this time. Rather the dashboard is shining a light on what the Wayne County government has been reporting since March, 2020, which is that individuals in our county, like counties across our nation, are testing positive for COVID-19. Along with our schools, there are businesses, restaurants, hotels, churches, and other public agencies in our county that are also being impacted when employees, customers, or visitors with COVID-19 come into their facilities. Most entities experiencing similar situations are not sending out public alerts, so we understand why our reports of cases may give some a false impression that schools are the main ones being impacted.
How is WCPS responding when someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 comes onto a school campus?
Because the state’s guidance documents are filled with pages of information, resources and protocols for schools to follow, a more general explanation may be more helpful for families, staff and the community to understand. First, it is important to recognize that each situation at a school will vary and must be handled on a case by case basis. For instance, variables can differ such as when the person with COVID-19 came on to a campus, where they were on the campus, how long they were on the campus, when they were tested, why they were tested, when they tested positive, when they got their results, if they are currently experiencing symptoms, if they were symptomatic at the time they were on campus, when they began experiencing symptoms, if they have been quarantined, if they were already quarantined at the time of the test, when the last time any areas they were in were disinfected by custodial or operations staff, if there were any “close contacts”, if “close contacts” have been notified, if health officials have been notified yet, or if the school was notified by health officials.
As part of the district’s response, contact tracing will occur. If there are “close contacts” at a school, they will be personally notified and instructed to quarantine for 14 days and self-monitor. WCPS will also use cleaning equipment to disinfect both the air and contact surfaces in all areas of the building where the individual who tested positive for COVID-19 has been. In all instances, health officials will be notified. NOTE: WCPS will not be releasing details about a specific response at a school (areas being cleaned, if there were "close contacts" and if so how many, etc.) which could potentially lead to the identification of an individual that has COVID-19 who was recently on that campus.
In the instance there is a cluster or outbreak of cases at a school, will the public be notified?
Yes. WCPS will work with the local health department and NCDHHS to publicly report if there is a cluster of cases or an outbreak of COVID-19 at a specific school. NOTE: In a child care or school setting, NCDHHS defines a COVID-19 cluster as a minimum of five laboratory confirmed cases with illness onsets or initial positive results within a 14-day period and plausible epidemiologic linkage between cases.