Falmouth Health Agent Scott McGann joined the Falmouth School Committee’s meeting Tuesday night, July 28, to speak about COVID-19 and take questions.
During the public comments section of the meeting, Mullen-Hall School music teacher Teresa Jazo thanked Mr. McGann for his part in the committee’s decision to cancel the high school graduation, even though the decision was not a happy one for graduates.
The afternoon before the scheduled ceremony on the football field last Saturday, July 25, school officials got word some members of the senior class might have been exposed to the COVID-19 virus.
The school committee convened an emergency meeting and voted to cancel the event.
That decision, Ms. Jazo said, made her “feel more confident in the decisions coming up. I feel calmer going into September when [these kinds of] decisions will be made.”
Mr. McGann said the Cape had been “doing well for some time” in terms of the number of COVID-19 cases, but a “blip” in cases was expected with the onset of summer visitors and people relaxing safety precautions.
In the past week, Mr. McGann said, there were 15 new COVID-19 cases.
The rise in cases is not unexpected, if you compare [the number of people on] Main Street in May and Main Street today,” he said.
The Falmouth Health Department, he said, will not know how many virus cases come out of the recent graduation and beach parties for two weeks. Contact tracing by the Visiting Nurse Association is only done on confirmed cases of COVID-19, not for self-reported cases.
A member of the school committee asked Mr. McGann who will be responsible for contact tracing if a student becomes sick.
Mr. McGann said the school system should follow state guidance, which will tell them what to do if a student becomes ill with suspected COVID-19. Once a student tests positive for the virus, the Visiting Nurse Association can to the contact tracing.
Superintendent Lori S. Duerr said the school system has received initial guidance from the state about when students should stay home and about when to close classrooms and schools, but no specifics have yet been sent on contact tracing.
“It’s easy for the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to say, ‘Talk to your health agent, but I need guidance too. I get a lot of false alarms,” he said. “The best advice for everyone is to follow state guidance—no big parties and stay in small groups. We can manage small groups.”
School Committee Chairwoman Kelly A. Welch asked Mr. McGann if quick testing could be made available to the schools as it was for the beach department.
“There is some money for [quick] testing. We are lucky on the Cape to have a county health department. A rapid response team is a possibility at some point,” he said.
When asked if a classroom of students could be tested quickly, Mr. McGann said, “Yes, for a classroom. But not the entire high school.”