Please don’t keep parents in the dark when their children are exposed to COVID-19
I know that our school district communications departments and nurses are doing incredibly hard jobs right now, but the letters that parents received on January 20th regarding the discontinuation of close contact notification are disturbing, at best. Transparency is at the very core of enabling us to make informed decisions for our families, and this latest move undermines our trust in the public school system more than any false narratives about inappropriate books or CRT in our classrooms. We are the people who want to believe in our public schools and we are having a hard time doing that right now.
Nowhere in the latest CCDOH guidelines does it state that “school districts are no longer authorized to issue CCHD quarantines”. Nor that schools should “discontinue…identifying close contacts for quarantine” or that “Close contact notifications/communications [should] end.”
Yes, contact tracing – “determining how or where individuals may have become infected” – is wholly ineffective right now. No one is arguing with schools halting efforts on this, especially without the county being able to support it.
Contact tracing is not the same thing as close contact notifications…i.e. notifying parents when their kids have been exposed to COVID
What the guidelines do say is that “All individuals who test positive are strongly urged to notify any known close contacts themselves.” While we could certainly ask our middle and high schoolers to do this themselves, we cannot expect our young children to remember who they sat near at lunch, unmasked. Many schools keep seating charts at the elementary level to offset this, but we don’t even have a way to contact some of those parents. Sure, we knew that the system was barely working since the omicron wave hit, but we felt comforted that the school was at least attempting to let us know if our children had been exposed. Now we are getting the message that you are giving up.
We can tell from the shared language in the letters received by parents at various districts throughout Chester County that these policy changes were coordinated jointly by the CCIU and Chester County school district administrations. The PA hospital preparedness dashboard shows that today, 36% of Chester County adult ICU beds are available. In ten days, Brandywine Hospital closes and we lose 15 beds…bumping that % available down to 17 if nothing else changes. And that doesn’t even address the staffing and mental health issues that our healthcare professionals are facing. I fear for our elderly parents, in spite of them being vaccinated and boosted. If anything happens to them before omicron has passed, I don’t know where they will receive timely treatment. This is a terrible move for the county to make right now.
This change in procedure also seems very random to us. While we understand that it is a resource constraint for our schools to notify close contacts, it was the one piece of the Health and Safety plans that made sense to most of us and made us feel more confident sending our kids to school. And now that the quarantine rules have changed so that vaccinated kids don’t even have to leave school…it makes more sense than ever to keep it in place. It could act as a motivator for parents who were on the fence to get their children vaccinated so that they can stay in school when they are exposed. The only downside being of course that schools would have to ask for proof of vaccination to determine a course of action for identified close contacts…but there are already systems in place to make that a non-issue.
We urge you to retract this change immediately and take a more measured approach to reducing communications with us regarding our children’s safety. If you can notify us of lice, you can notify us of a positive COVID case.