Rutherford schools' new contact-tracing procedures for COVID-19 reduces need for quarantine

Aug 21, 2020 at 10:00 am by Michelle Willard

Day in Corona

In the wake of yet another Rutherford County school, the county system has released new contact-tracing procedures for COVID-19, according to Rutherford County Schools.

After a discussion Thursday morning, Aug. 20 with the Tennessee Department of Health, Rutherford County Schools has received new guidance on how the school district should handle contact tracing related to COVID-19.

The specific guidelines, along with the changes, can be found on the Tennessee Department of Health’s website here.

The discussion comes a day after Smyrna Elementary School was moved to distance-learning for all students through Sept. 1, because of a high number of potential COVID-19 exposures.

"We have reports of approximately 53 students and eight teachers who must go on a precautionary quarantine because they are either showing potential symptoms of COVID-19 or they are a close contact of someone who is showing symptoms," a press release from RCS said. "Our contact tracing has determined this is possibly caused by these students being in the same neighborhood or sharing a bus route.

"Because of these high numbers and to mitigate any additional exposure, we are transitioning Smyrna Elementary School to distance-learning through Tuesday, Sept. 1. This means all students at Smyrna Elementary School will switch temporarily to distance-learning through Tuesday, Sept. 1," the release said.

Previously, the contact-tracing guidance had been that anyone in contact with someone with a suspected or confirmed case of COVID-19 had to be quarantined for 14 days as what caused Smyrna Elementary to be shut down. The new guidance now states that only those who have been in contact with someone with a confirmed case of COVID must be quarantined.

With the new guidance, schools will be working with those families who have students on quarantine to transition them back to school over the next few days. Only those who have symptoms or who have been in contact with a confirmed case of COVID must remain in quarantine.

Currently, there are approximately 250 cases, districtwide, of students who have been quarantined because of COVID symptoms. By contrast, there are approximately 1,250 students, districtwide, who have been quarantined for being in contact with someone with a potential, but not confirmed, case of COVID-19.   

The school district has already shared information about suspected cases with the Health Department, as required, and we will continue to do so as new potential cases arise. The Health Department will then perform contact tracing if it determines there is an actual case of COVID-19.

We know that many parents have expressed frustration over the past few days because their children have been quarantined and moved to distance learning for a 14-day period. We are grateful for this new guidance from the Health Department.

Our schools will remain vigilant when it comes to mitigating the spread of COVID-19. If we quarantine a student for potential symptoms, we will move the other students in the class to another area for the remainder of the day and then deeply sanitize the classroom before it can be used again. We will also continue to monitor spread rate numbers in the community and will keep parents notified of any issues that affect their children directly.



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