Health Team shares policy changes, holiday reminder

Learn about our Test To Stay protocol to decrease interruptions in learning and other updates on USN’s COVID-mitigation strategy. As we approach the holiday season, please be aware of how your family’s activities and travel plans can impact the USN community.
By Health Team Co-Directors Margee Brennan, M.D. and Jenn Aaron, N.P. 

It's hard to believe we are in our 11th week of school and heading into the holiday season. This time last year we had only been in person for a couple of weeks, were actively creating our swiss-cheese approach to COVID-mitigation, and holding our breath while we waited to see if those layers would actually protect our USN community. Fast forward through 100+ cases, close to 1,000 quarantines, vaccine availability for many, and a Delta variant surge. We continue to increase our high vaccination rate as more students reach the eligible age, and we are ever closer to getting the next age group approved for the vaccine. 

Here are a couple of the biggest adjustments we have made this school year. We are using CDC guidance to allow vaccinated close contacts to come to school as long as they are asymptomatic and to get a PCR test three to five days after their exposure. We continue to see breakthrough cases, but our quarantine numbers have plummeted. For our unvaccinated students in Grades K-6, we have implemented a Test To Stay protocol. This method allows students with an in-school exposure to continue attending if they are asymptomatic throughout the seven-day modified quarantine, undergo daily rapid antigen testing, and have a negative result before entering the building. PCR tests are reserved for symptomatic students and/or positive rapid tests. The quarantine still applies to afterschool and weekend activities, but students are not missing school during this time. We are fine-tuning our protocol as we gain experience with the process but our experience so far makes us optimistic. 

We tended to see an increase in cases and exposures during and after school breaks last year, so as we approach Halloween, Thanksgiving, and beyond, we ask that you continue to be mindful of how your family activities can impact our school community upon your return. National case numbers, while on the decline, are still close to the level we were experiencing in February of last year. Here are recently updated CDC travel guidelines to help with planning for the holidays. We are happy to help coordinate rapid and/or PCR testing (primarily on school days) or talk you through your family’s COVID-prevention plans. The best way to contact us is to email covid-alert@usn.org.
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