ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — As the first day of school gets closer, many parents are wondering what happens if there’s a COVID-19 case in a school. Dr. Michael Mendoza explained what he knows about that process so far during News 8’s Back To School: Facts First town hall on Wednesday.
He said as soon as there’s a positive case in a school, the health department will investigate. They’ll interview anyone who came in contact with the COVID-positive person and try to trace where that infection came from. What happens next will depend on the results of the investigation.
Dr. Mendoza said if a positive COVID-19 case is found in a particular classroom, the health department will likely recommend closing that room for at least 24 hours.
“It will give our team in the health department some time to undertake the contact tracing process to identify who in that class may need to be quarantined and who may not need to be quarantined and who will be safe to go back to school. And it will also allow us to understand if there was any further spread in that building because if so we will want to extend the contact tracing,” he said.
He said someone who tests positive will be under isolation for 10 days. They’ll be cleared to return to school once they’re symptom-free for three days. They’ll also be required to produce a negative test result and an evaluation from their doctor.
“For people who are sent home for other reasons it’s a little more complicated and we are in the process or ironing out all those details. But suffice to say we do not want to send anybody back to school who can pose a risk to any other students or to teachers or to staff.”
Another major factor when it comes to a positive case in a school is how many cases there are in the community. Dr. Mendoza said right now the prevalence is very low.
“If that continues we are going to have to see a very high prevalence in a school to want to close that school down, but if the community prevalence increases to the point that any number of infections in a school is enough to give us concern then we might have a lower threshold for wanting to close an entire building down.”
Dr. Mendoza said even though there’s higher rates of infection in some zip codes over others he doesn’t think any one district is worse off than another. He said he’s equally concerned about all districts but if confident in their plans.