When Governor Roy Cooper announced K-5 students in North Carolina could return to the classroom under Plan A, the Macon County Board of Health began reviewing the updated guidelines that were provided by the state.
As part of that review process, the MCPH updated criteria for contact tracing that will help keep students in the classroom while focusing on potential exposure due to COVID19.
Originally, during the first few weeks of school, if a student or teacher tested positive for COVID19 the entire classroom was placed in a quarantine, which resulted in schools such as Macon Middle School, Mountain View Intermediate School, and Franklin High School, having to switch to virtual learning due to staffing shortages. Entire classrooms were sent home for 10-14 days if a single student tested positive.
To minimize the number of individuals needing to be quarantined in the event of a positive COVID19 case, Macon County Public Health Information Officer Emily Ritter said that several changes were announced to teachers over the weekend.
The revised guidelines for the school system now includes implemented assigned seating to use targeted contact tracing, working with MCPH to develop ParentLink callouts to keep parents informed, and implementing joint messages with the health department for consistency in information available to families.
The health department has also now classified all teachers and staff in Macon County Schools as essential workers, which means under the law they will not have to quarantine unless a high risk of close contact (exposure) is determined.
With assigned seating for students, MCPH will be able to implement a more targeted strategy for quarantining students, unless a high risk of close contact (exposure) is determined.