The next steps if there’s a positive COVID-19 case in a school.
The configuration of a classroom.
These are some of the concerns and questions Dana Carr fields as a Delaware Division of Public Health liaison to schools.
“I think there’s also recognition that folks who run schools are educators, and they are trained in education practice and not necessarily in public health — some of them, maybe,” she said. “That’s why we stand in partnership with them; we just bring a different skill set and a different level of knowledge.”
Ms. Carr is one of five liaisons in the state working with schools as they operate under the shadow of COVID-19, which has caused a reverberation of changes and challenges to education since the first case was confirmed in Delaware in March.
Schools know what to do in the flu season and the procedures and precautions they ought to take. But dealing with COVID-19 is “pretty unique,” said Dr. Rebecca Walker, nursing director for the Division of Public Health.
“We’re just trying to make sure all the bases are covered,” she said.
The DPH school liaison role was created over the summer, with the goal of being a resource when schools started to reopen (for some as early as August; for others, closer to mid-September). Each county has its own liaison. A fourth works with charter schools in New Castle County. And Ms. Carr interfaces with the Delaware Department of Education and works with private, parochial and independent schools.
As summer started to wane, Dr. Walker said DPH wanted to best be able to serve schools and DOE.
“In order to facilitate that, we wanted to identify a key point person, like points of contact, that would help with information and communication, so that way, it would follow a consistent chain,” she said. “Then, potentially, if there was a question, they wouldn’t be reaching out to a bunch of different phone numbers and possibly getting it to the wrong person.”
If something comes up that the liaison doesn’t know offhand, they know who can handle it, Ms. Carr said.
“We have the connections back into Public Health in a way that we can do it in a streamline, get answers quickly back to folks and be as responsive as we can because we know these decisions and conversations have to happen super fast,” she said. “They can’t have a protracted question-and-answer process.”
School nurses or COVID-19 coordinators tend to be who the liaisons work with, Ms. Carr said.
Ever since schools closed in mid-March for the end of the 2019-20 school year, the governor and DOE leadership have emphasized that, largely, local decisions are the path moving forward, following the statewide approval to utilize a hybrid instruction model.
“The communities are so different. Even within one county, it can look very different. That’s why we have the liaisons that are focused specifically in the counties themselves, so that they can get to know those school districts really well and the school leadership and the school nurses really, really well,” Ms. Carr said. “I would say a big part of this has been building relationships.”
As schools have been moving more and more toward in-person learning — October marked a milestone for many districts, as they started bringing students back — there have been a number of COVID-19 cases in schools. In one instance, cases, and their subsequent quarantines, caused Woodbridge High School to close for two weeks, officials announced last week.
As those situations come forward, DPH looks from an epidemiological perspective to find where those cases originated through the contact tracing process. With that, Dr. Walker said they’re not seeing people become infected with COVID-19 while at school.
“We pay close attention to the students and where they are, their positioning and all that. It’s a science that they’ve been working through,” she said.
In those scenarios, liaisons are communicating about the function of the epidemiology team, who gets quarantined depending on contact, the layered mitigation strategies, etc.
In the case of Woodbridge, Ms. Carr noted that it’s not an “outbreak,” but several cases that are causing “rings of people” to be quarantined due to their contact with positive cases.
“(We’re) helping remind communities, trying to disseminate that message that schools remain relatively safe environments, because school leaders are doing such an awesome job and ensuring that layered mitigation strategies are being implemented and that we need to continue to do that,” she said.
Unlike frequenting a business or a restaurant during COVID-19, school isn’t really optional (though remote learning does remain an option statewide for those who do not want to partake in in-person learning).
“Kids still need to learn, and they’re cohorts of different cultures within the community, so you’re catching a lot of different people from lots of different areas that are potentially in…
Source Website DPH liaisons working through COVID cases with schools – Delaware State News