Testing, Tracing, and Isolation
It is important to note that testing, combined with contact tracing and isolation, helps control the spread of COVID-19 in Massachusetts. All test results, both positive and negative, are reported to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH). When a person has a positive COVID-19 test, it is the local board of health or the Massachusetts Community Tracing Collaborative that will reach out to provide support so that these individuals can remain safely in medical isolation. The Hopkinton DPH works in collaboration with the schools when identifying close contacts for students and faculty. The Hopkinton DPH (or in some cases school nurses working with the DPH) will reach out to the individual’s close contacts to provide important information that is aimed to stop the spread of the virus, including how to safely isolate/quarantine. To further assist with contact tracing the student/family and staff are asked to reach out to their personal contacts and notify the school.
Most people who test positive and have a relatively mild illness will need to stay in self-isolation for at least 10 days. (We should note that isolation differs from quarantine. Isolation is for symptomatic people, while quarantining is for people who are asymptomatic but have had exposure to a COVID-19 positive person.)
People who test positive can resume public activities after 10 days and once they have:
- gone for 3 days without a fever (and without taking fever-reducing medications like Tylenol); and
- experienced improvement in other symptoms (for example, their cough has gotten much better); and
- received clearance from public health authority (the local board of health or Community Tracing Collaborative).
(Repeat testing prior to return is not required by DESE. Return to school should be based on time and symptom resolution.) The schools are not medical decision-makers.
Close contacts of a positive COVID-19 case should be tested. For general guidance, DPH defines close contact as:
- Being within less than 6 feet of COVID-19 case for at least 10-15 minutes
- Having direct contact with infectious secretions of a COVID-19 case (e.g., being coughed on) while not wearing recommended personal protective equipment.
In school settings, close contacts include other students and staff who were within 6 feet of the student or staff for at least 10-15 minutes in a classroom, in other school spaces, on the bus, or at an extracurricular activity. In elementary and other school situations where the students are in self-contained classrooms for an extended period, all students/staff within this “cohort” are considered close contacts as they may have been within 6 feet of the person with a positive test result. Possible close contacts should not come back to school until they have been tested (or elected instead to self-quarantine for 14 days). If an individual tests positive for COVID-19, then self-isolation is for a minimum of 10 days and until at least three days have passed with no fever and improvement in other symptoms as noted. If the test is negative, the student/staff can return to school if asymptomatic and wearing a mask.
The single most important thing to do if any of the following symptoms are present is to STAY HOME. Our collective health relies, in part, on individual attention and responsibility. Note that some symptoms of COVID-19 are the same as the flu or a bad cold; please do not assume it is another condition. When in doubt, stay home.
Below is the full list of symptoms for which caregivers should monitor their children, and staff should monitor themselves:
- Fever (100.4° Fahrenheit or higher), chills, or shaking chills
- Cough (not due to other known cause, such as chronic cough)
- Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
- New loss of taste or smell
- Sore throat
- Headache when in combination with other symptoms
- Muscle aches or body aches
- Nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea
- Fatigue, when in combination with other symptoms
- Nasal congestion or runny nose (not due to other known causes, such as allergies) when in combination with other symptoms
Personal Protective Equipment:
Personal protective equipment (PPE) has been purchased as recommended by the Department of Education in their memo of June 5, 2020.
Additional safety precautions are required for school nurses and any staff supporting high-intensity students in close proximity, when distance is not possible. These precautions include eye protection and a mask/face covering. Precautions may also include gloves and disposable gowns or a washable outer layer of clothing depending on the duration of contact and especially if the individual may come into close contact with bodily fluids.
Protocols for Responding to COVID-19 Scenarios:
Our first goal is to ensure we create a safe and healthy learning environment for our students, faculty, and staff. In order to provide this environment, the Hopkinton Public Schools must have the ability to react to COVID-19 cases as they occur in our schools, buses, or in the community. The District will follow DESE’s protocols should we encounter COVID-19 cases or possible COVID cases within our schools. This guidance is subject to change and will be updated accordingly.
Protocols for District Closure:
The school Committee voted unanimously to approve a set of metrics that would inform a judgment as to when either a building, a school, or even the whole district would close. Among those metrics discussed were numbers of cases and the situations around the cases in Hopkinton; the trajectory of the virus; the numbers and roles of teachers and the students who are out of school; the expert opinions of the local and Massachusetts DPH, CDC, WHO, and others.
In the event of a school or district-wide closure, the District will check inventory levels of needed supplies and ensure that all staff and students are directed to review correct hygiene procedures upon reopening.