State Issues Guidance For Dealing With COVID-19 Cases In N.H. Schools | New Hampshire Public Radio

State Issues Guidance For Dealing With COVID-19 Cases In N.H. Schools

Aug 13, 2020

A school playground in Rye.
Credit Dan Tuohy for NHPR

Governor Chris Sununu says state public health officials will work hand in hand with school districts to identify positive cases, conduct contact tracing, and notify the public about outbreaks in schools.

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In a press conference on Thursday, Sununu said the state will track positive cases, clusters (three or more cases in a classroom) and outbreaks in all school districts and publish the information on a centralized website.

“As I parent, I think I speak for a lot of parents, if you get one positive case or some kid is quarantining, rumors can go very quickly through the system, so we want to make sure that the data that's been confirmed and that we have is very available to the parents and communities out there,” he said.

Click here for slides from the press conference.

The announcement comes as many districts prepare to re-open fully or with a hybrid model, under what some school leaders said was limited guidance for protocols if a staff or student tested positive.

Beth Daly, Chief of the Bureau of Infectious Disease Control, told NHPR in an interview this week that the state has capacity to conduct contact tracing as schools reopen, and to coordinate with schools when a positive case is identified.

“When I think of what's going to happen with schools, it's partnership,” Daly says. “We just need to be in very close coordination communication with all of these school entities, they need to report to us any situations they might hear about locally on the ground there as quickly as they know about it, and then likewise we will connect with them and share information."

At Thursday's press conference, Sununu said the state does not have a plan yet to expand rapid COVID-19 testing in schools.

He says federal health officials have deployed the most rapid testing kits at hospitals and long-term care facilities, but that schools could also be considered “front-line” for those purposes.

“Rapid testing in the school districts would be terrific,” he says. “As more of that technology becomes available, we would love to get it into schools, and if there’s a possibility to do that in a few months, that would be great.”

But he says they expect most testing for students and people in schools will still be done through “traditional” means – labs, doctors and urgent care centers that have done the bulk of testing in the state so far.

Sununu says he thinks the few-day turnaround times for those test results should be enough to keep schools safe.  

The Department of Education released this five steps poster: