With school starting next week, districts have been preparing to have policies and procedures in place to continue to mitigate COVID-19.
“I’m just stunned that we’re still talking about this,” said Jeff Solan, superintendent of Cheshire Public Schools. “After the few weeks that we were supposed to be out for COVID, we’re here a few years later still kind of trying to navigate this. We’re feeling that today we’re in a much better place to be able to move forward and have a school year that’s much more typical.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) updated guidance on COVID-19 on Aug. 11, stating that it is recommended if a person tests positive for COVID-19, they should stay home for at least five days. After five days, if the person is free of a fever for at least 24 hours without using medication and symptoms are improving, they may end their isolation.
However, they should still wear a mask through their tenth day.
The CDC also recommends that if a person has access to antigen tests, they should use one to be sure they can safely remove their mask.
“With two sequential negative tests 48 hours apart, you may remove your mask sooner than day 10,” according to the CDC.
In Connecticut, over the past seven days, there have been 3,300 confirmed COVID-19 cases, according to CT Data. In Wallingford, there have been 46, in Cheshire there have been 23, in Meriden there have been 81 and in Southington, there have been 39.
Both New Haven and Hartford Counties are in the medium risk category regarding COVID-19 exposure, according to the CDC. These categories are determined based on hospitalizations and case numbers.
For this category, people who are at a high risk of getting very sick because they are “older, are immunocompromised, have certain disabilities, or have underlying health conditions” should wear a high quality mask in indoor public places, according to the CDC.
If someone lives with someone who is high risk or is socializing with someone who is high risk, consider self-testing and wearing a high quality mask indoors.
Southington Public Schools’ procedures were not made available by time of publication.
While protocols and procedures will help keep students and staff members safe, Susan Bencivenga Lonczak, director of health for the Plainville-Southington Health District, said it all comes down to “those basic tried and true things.”
“Washing your hands, watching your symptoms,” Lonczak said. “Families need to look at some of the different risky behaviors and make decisions that are best for them. But the school setting is really important for kids.”
According to the CDC, there are a total of 16,603 monkeypox cases in the United States, including 86 cases in Connecticut.
“At this time, the risk of monkeypox infection in children and adolescents remains low,” said Lea Crown, director of the Meriden Department of Health. “Monkeypox virus can infect anyone – including children – if they have close, personal, often skin-to-skin contact with someone who has monkeypox. In this current outbreak, most cases of monkeypox have been associated with sexual contact.”
If someone gets monkeypox, Lonczak said their local health department will play an integral role in working with them to get through the virus. For schools, she said they will be following any guidance out there, especially when it comes to disinfecting touched objects.
“All the things that they normally would do are wonderful to combat anything from cold and flu season down to any of the more rare things,” Lonczak said. “But typically the risk is very low because this really is going to fall under a disease that is contracted with really close skin-to-skin contact.”
For the schools, Glendon said they have worked with the nurses and administrators to come up with preparations just in case someone were to contract monkeypox.
“It’s a very low concern in the school districts right now,” Glendon said.
Importance of school
Area school administrators, teachers and health professionals are happy that this upcoming school year is going to look a little bit more normal.
“I think myself, I think all the teachers and students are looking to try to get back to a normal school year with interactions between students and teachers, our sporting events … and be able to plan for a normal school year,” said Michael Grove, assistant superintendent for technology and operations for Meriden Public Schools.
Meriden schools are starting on Wednesday, while Cheshire schools are starting Tuesday and both Southington and Wallingford are starting on Thursday.
To help with a more normal school year, school districts will have COVID-19 tests that they can give to students who show symptoms or are exposed to the virus.
Crown said that there is a free PCR testing site at 13 Orange St. in Meriden on Thursdays from 3 to 6 p.m. and Saturdays from 9 a.m. to noon.
Along with that, area health departments are hosting vaccine clinics. There will be one on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Calender House in Southington for ages six months and up.
“There’s a big need for children to stay in school and really have all of those accesses available,” Lonczak said.
Hazelwood said the Wallingford Health Department is working with the school system to offer two COVID vaccine clinics open to all Wallingford residents. They will be held Nov. 2 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and Nov. 16 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the Wallingford Public Library’s community room.
Lauren Mancini-Averitt, president of the Meriden Federation of Teachers and ninth grade world history teacher at Maloney High School, said she is looking forward to seeing her students’ full faces.
“When we started last year, it was 100% masked,” Mancini-Averitt said, “so we only got to see everybody’s eyes so I’m looking forward to seeing some smiling faces and some teeth.”
[email protected]: @jessica_simms99