Dear Exeter Community:
As Director of Pupil Services, I lead the team around COVID-19 management, including quarantines and closures. I do this work in conjunction with PDE and DOH. As you may have noticed, we have some case counts on the dashboard that fit into the "count bands" related to closures. At this time, we have decided it is not appropriate to close those particular buildings. I'd like to provide you with some context on how those decisions are made. The most important context, of course, is the overall safety and well-being of our students and staff. This remains our number one priority.
PDE and DOH have established "count bands" for cases through which schools should work in relation to the attestation order and building closures. Additionally, there are the "bands of time closure" related to the number of cases.
The count bands and closure bands are as follows:
- Lorane and Jacksonwald are 2-4 cases (3-7 days for closure in Substantial)
- Owatin Creek, Reiffton, and Junior High are 4-6 cases (3-7 days for closure in Substantial)
- High School is 6-10 cases (3-7 days for closure in Substantial)
We have been flexing that particular lever of "band of time closure" when making closure decisions previously in conjunction with local incidence rates, which are monitored daily. Given that incidence rates were incredibly high over the winter months, we considered that factor heavily. The other factor considered has been whether or not there are any connections based on close contact tracing in buildings that might indicate building spread. If we have multiple close contacts that end up testing positive, we become more concerned about building spread. If they are isolated cases, we are less concerned about building spread.
Now that incidence rates are lower, we are also flexing the "band of cases" lever for each building. To give you a comparison between incidence rates in Exeter from yesterday and a random day in January (say January 11th), the incidence rate yesterday was 149.47 and on January 11th was at 359.94. So the incidence rate is less than half of what it was in January. Additionally, we continue to factor in whether or not contact tracing leads us to believe there is concern about building spread.
We are also factoring in the number of people who have been vaccinated as well as whether or not we have any concerns about time needed to clean any areas.
We've made these ongoing decisions in consultation with DOH. They have indicated that it is appropriate to utilize both the "band of cases" and "band of time closure" levers when making decisions. They have encouraged us to utilize the aforementioned factors in our decision-making process.
As has been the case since March 13th of 2020, the situation with the pandemic continues to evolve. All of the factors I've outlined will continue to impact our decisions. For example, if incidence rates were to spike again to a severe degree such as they were back in January, we would most likely move back to a more conservative approach. If incidence rates continue to drop, we would most likely take steps to continue to move closer to whatever remains of "normal" these days!
Please view the Recommendations for Pre-K to 12 Schools Following Identification of a Case of Covid-19 page, which is also linked on our Covid-19 Dashboard, for further consumption of information.
Mrs. Dawn Harris
Director of Pupil Services