Nine positive COVID-19 cases were reported during the first five days of the 2021-2022 Falmouth school year.
Cases have been identified at Morse Pond School, Lawrence School, Falmouth High School and in the elementary grade levels, Superintendent Lori S. Duerr said.
During the Tuesday, September 14, School Committee meeting, Dr. Duerr said that, under Department of Elementary and Secondary Education guidance, contract tracing protocols resulted in 10 students having to quarantine.
Out of the staff members considered close contacts, one was unvaccinated and was also required to quarantine, Dr. Duerr said.
“We knew with COVID and the rates in town we were likely to have positive cases,” Dr. Duerr said.
When asked the total number of close contacts involved, Dr. Duerr was unable to provide the data just yet. School nurses have been working to input all of the data and vaccination status information as quickly as possible, Dr. Duerr said.
Procedurally, when a student begins to feel ill while in school they will be tested.
If test results return positive, the student is sent home. Once close contacts are identified, nurses and close contact tracers are required to call to identify the contacts vaccination status, if not already known, to move forward with the appropriate procedures.
Those considered close contacts who are unvaccinated asymptomatic individuals will be tested, if given consent, on the day of identification and for five days following providing a negative result each time. If a student or staff does not give consent to a test, they must quarantine, Dr. Duerr said.
While still the beginning of the school year, administration has not yet received every test and stay consent form or vaccination status from students, Dr. Duerr said.
Health Agent Scott McGann, who joined the meeting, urged students who return a positive COVID-19 test through the test and stay program to also take a PCR test.
“For now, I want parents who have positives to get a verification PCR test,” Mr. McGann said, adding that this is subject to change as the state is working on best data reporting practices for each school.
There has yet to be a mechanism put into place by DESE for inputting the test and stay data into the Maven system for COVID-19 tracing.
“All cases should be reported into Maven; they’re supposed to be. How that’s going to all work is still being worked out between the Department of Public Health and DESE,” Mr. McGann said.
The rapid tests used in the test and stay program are not as efficiently entered into the system as PCR tests, Mr. McGann said. Work is still being done at the state level to figure out how to import the data into the system so that people can be released from isolation, Mr. McGann said
In terms of vaccination rates, 65 percent of school staff have reported that they are vaccinated. This number could be higher as Dr. Duerr, pointed out during the meeting, staff members who have yet to report their vaccination status were able to do so because of the test and stay program.
It is premature to determine a vaccination percentage amongst the student population right now due to the workload required to input the necessary data, Dr. Duerr said.
“It’s still early in the school year and we’re still trying to settle into new routines, new protocols, and our new programs like the test and stay,” Dr. Duerr.
In an effort to encourage accessible vaccinations, Dr. Duerr urged parents and staff to sign up for the in-school clinic. The first dose will be administered Friday, September 24, at Falmouth High School, Lawrence School, and Morse Pond School.
“For all of the students who are 12 years and older and all of our staff that are not vaccinated yet, we have the in-school clinic running. Next Friday is the first day of the vaccine clinic, so our staff, if they are not vaccinated, can come right into school and do that during work time,” Dr. Duerr said.
Health Agent Scott McGann reminded parents and guardians that although vaccination clinics appear easily done now, when a booster shot is rolled out the availability of nurses will minimize to accommodate both vaccination injections.
“It’s easy for us to run the clinics now, but there might be a delay in that sort of October crunch, November crunch to be able to pull [nurses] in and do it,” Mr. McGann said, “If you’re thinking of doing it now as a parent who is listening now, please sign up for the one on Friday [September 24].”
Dr. Parkinson wanted to include his recent experiences as a physician.
“The predominant thing I’ve seen this week of positive cases is people saying, ‘We were just getting ready to get vaccinated,’ ” Dr. Parkinson said, reiterating Mr. McGann’s point of vaccinating children 12 years and older before booster shot rollout reduces original vaccination sites.