The Churchill County School District will require beginning today (Sept. 9) all students to wear a face covering for at least a month because of an increase number of positive COVID-19 cases in the schools.
Superintendent Dr. Summer Stephens said Wednesday at the Board of Trustees meeting because of this breakout, an increased number of students and staff members have been required to quarantine because of proximity contact tracing.
“We have a very serious situation at this time,” Stephens said.
The state’s emergency directive 048 requires a universal face covering will be worn by all students until a health official determines the end of an outbreak. The Nevada Division of Public and Behavioral Health identified both the high school and middle school as having COVID-19 outbreaks.
Stephens said the implementation will be in effect for 28 days which consists of two 14-day infectious cycles.
Stephens told trustees the school district is sending out messages to parents advising them of the outbreak and the requirement for face coverings. In her letter to parents, she said “An outbreak is defined as two (2) or more laboratory confirmed COVID-19 cases among students or staff with onsets within a 14-day period, who are epidemiologically linked, do not share a household, and were not identified as close contacts of each other in another setting during standard case investigation or contact tracing.”
Stephens compared the increased number of cases to figures reported on Sept. 23, 2020. She said 228 students were excluded, and there was only one positive test. The report as of Wednesday shows 74 students are COVID positive and 684 students excluded.
She said 16 staff members have also tested positive, and one is in intensive care.
Stephens told trustees the situation has changed from last year when universal face covering were required in addition to most social distancing and more internal cleaning.
“Our goal is to stay open,” she said, adding the school district contemplated closing both the high school and middle school for contact tracing.
Furthermore, Stephens said the lack of substitute teachers is hurting instruction, thus causing personnel such as principals to teach classes. With staff out and a shortage of substitute teachers, she said it will be hard “to stay open.”
Stephens reiterated the district will take steps to keep students in their classes, activities and athletics and not go to distance learning or a hybrid of in-person/online learning.
Stephens said she receives emails from parents who ask why the school district doesn’t require masks for students to those who don’t want masks.
“My job is to keep schools open,” she said.
Stephens said most students who attended school last year said there were “OK” with wearing face coverings. The superintendent added she expects the school district staff to continue wearing face coverings.
In her message to parents, she said “Primary exposure is defined as someone who was within 3 feet of an infected person for a cumulative total of 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period starting from two days before illness onset (or, for asymptomatic persons, two days prior to positive specimen collection).
“The following is an exception for students: In the K-12 indoor classroom, the close contact definition excludes students who were within 3 feet of an infected student where both students were wearing face coverings in a proper manner and other mitigation strategies were in place. This does not apply to any adults in the classroom.
“With this implementation, the quarantine process will drastically reduce. More masking means fewer students who will be required to quarantine.”
Stephens said the school district will continually monitor local data and the number of positive cases of COVID-19 cases in the school district.