COVID-19 numbers spike in the new year; Schools
By ERIN SANSON
The Macoupin County Public Health Department announced via its online tracker that the new Covid-19 county positivity rate was up to 15.2% on the week of Jan. 9, almost double the goal which is a positivity rate of 8% or less. The rate jumped from an 8.8% positivity rate on the week of Jan. 2.
Macoupin County, as well as the rest of Illinois is being labeled as a “high transmission area,” according to the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH). There are 2,171 active cases in Macoupin County as of Tuesday, Jan. 11.
The effect on Macoupin Schools
Illinois Public Schools are now also dealing with implementing the new CDC and IDPH recommended isolation periods, the new recommendations had not been adapted for schools by the time Macoupin County schools had returned following the winter holiday.
Carlinville School District Superintendent Dr. Becky Schuchman sent out a letter on Jan. 5 detailing the high case number on what was only the third day back to school after winter break. At the time the Health Department reported 10 students being positive and 20 in isolation, Schuchman explained that the numbers were much higher due to the availability of at-home tests. Schuchman added that in actuality over 100 students had tested positive, were symptomatic, or have had a direct exposure over the two days school was in session.
The letter to parents also warned that the schools or district may be forced to switch to remote learning, use built-in emergency days, or need to take an adaptive pause. Schuchman cited concerns over not only student exposures but staffing concerns as well.
Carlinville is not the only district in the county to have sent out such a letter. Southwestern Superintendent Kyle Hacke sent out a letter on Friday Jan. 7 asking Southwestern parents to be prepared to take an adaptive pause and switch to remote learning. Staffing concerns were also an issue addressed by Hacke.
He mentioned also that if the district needed to make changes due to high exposure rates but was able to safely staff some buildings but not all, the buildings that could remain open, would remain open. Other alternative plans included combined transportation routes or having buses run double routes.
The Staunton School District took an adaptive pause that began Tues. Jan 11 for all students in grades 8-12. The pause will last until Friday Jan. 14 and students will return to school on Tuesday Jan. 18, following Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
The district explained the transition to an adaptive pause as a result of multiple classroom and extracurricular activity outbreaks in those grade levels. Staunton noted, like Carlinville and Southwestern, there are concerns with staffing the classrooms of those grades. Staunton’s letter to parents included the schedules students will follow during the pause to do their work remotely.
Activities, practices, and competitions were paused with the district through Saturday Jan. 15.
New school guidelines
The Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) announced on Friday Jan. 7 that they would likely adapt the New CDC and IDPH guidelines once they were officially announced by ISBE on Monday Jan. 10 or Tuesday Jan. 11. The new recommendations are for a five day isolation period instead of the previously recommended ten days.
The CDC now recommend that staff or students who test positive for COVID-19, regardless of
vaccination status should isolate for 5 days after the onset of symptoms, or 5 days from specimen collection date if no symptoms are present.
Any staff or students who have tested positive for Covid-19 and do not have symptoms or whose symptoms are resolving can be released from isolation. If the individual continues to have a fever or other symptoms have not improved after the five day period, they should remain in isolation until they have been fever-free for 24 hours and any other symptoms have improved.
Schools must also ensure that any staff or students who test positive continue to wear a well fitted mask around other for 5 additional days after they have been released from isolation, including when they are at home. If the individual is unable to wear a mask around others they should isolate for a full 10 days. Positive students must avoid contact with immunocompromised individuals. If masks need to be removed, a 6 foot distance should be maintained until 10 days after the onset of symptoms or a positive test result.
New guidelines were also released for close contact individuals. The CDC recommended that anyone 18 or older who have received all recommended vaccine doses, including boosters or additional doses, anyone ages 5-17 who completed their primary vaccination series, and anyone who was confirmed to be covid-29 positive within the last 90 days, is not required to quarantine, should wear a mask around others for a 10 day period, should take a Covid-19 test on day 5, if possible, and should a person develop symptoms they should isolate immediately until a negative test confirms the symptoms are not caused by Covid-19.
Those age 18 or older who received their primary vaccination series but o booster or additional doses; those who received the single dose Johnson and Johnson vaccine over two months ago but have not received a recommended booster when eligible; the unvaccinated or those who have not completed a vaccination series should stay home and mask around others for five days and continue to mask around others for an additional five days, test on day five, if possible, and should a person develop symptoms they should immediately isolate until a negative test confirms symptoms are not caused by Covid-19.