A new policy for Greenbrier County Schools would allow vaccinated students and staff to remain in school during their quarantine period after a COVID-19 exposure.
On Wednesday, January 12, the Greenbrier County Schools Facebook page posted, announcing the upcoming policy.
“On Tuesday, January 18, GCS will introduce Test to Stay, a testing protocol that allows unvaccinated students and staff without symptoms to remain in our K-12 schools during their quarantine period. The CDC considers Test to Stay a promising protocol for minimizing quarantine and allowing students to remain in school. School nurses will provide information on Test to Stay to students who are eligible.”
Post includes a link that leads to a frequently asked questions page, a document named “Greenbrier County School Pre-Registration Instructions,” and a link to the CDC, where a science brief can be found on the subject, titled “Transmission of SARS-CoV-2 in K-12 Schools and Early Care and Education Programs – Updated.”
The frequently asked questions page explains more of the nuisances of the policy:
– “Fully vaccinated individuals are not subject to quarantine and do not require testing to stay to continue attending school following an exposure.”
– “For school exposures, the first test should be done on day three after exposure. … The second test should occur on day five after exposure. [If the exposure is not identified until day five], testing is recommended, but not required for the student to attend school.”
– “If a student/staff has a household exposure, [they are not eligible to participate in Test to Stay]. … Household exposures must quarantine at home. However, they may contact their school to obtain testing supplies for their required testing.”
– “You may use at-home testing or testing from another lab to participate in Test to Stay. You will need to keep your school nurse/principal updated on the testing dates and results.”
– “Can a student/staff participating in Test to Stay attend Greenbrier County Schools extracurricular activities (athletics)? Yes, individuals participating in Test to Say may attend Greenbrier County Schools extracurricular activities but must wear a mask at all times during their modified quarantine time. It is recommended that masks be worn whenever someone who has had a COVID exposure is with those outside of their family group.”
– “Can a student athlete participating in Test to Stay continue to play their sport without a mask? Yes, student athletes may participate without face masks if negative tests are obtained on the date they were identified as a close contact and again 5 days after exposure.”
As of January 12, the day of the announcement, the Greenbrier County Health Department listed the county as having 577 active cases and a total of 123 deaths since the beginning of the pandemic.
The CDC link includes a new section on the Test to Stay model of prevention.
“Test to Stay (TTS) is a practice comprised of contact tracing and serial testing (testing that is sequentially repeated) to allow school-associated close contacts who are not fully vaccinated to continue in-person learning during their quarantine period. While implementation of TTS may vary, contact tracing and testing as well as masking of contacts during their in-school quarantine period are integral to minimize risk of transmission. Schools may consider the use of TTS to minimize the impact of quarantine and limit school absences after a SARS-CoV-2 exposure in the K-12 school setting. Initial investigations in K-12 schools implementing TTS with layered prevention strategies demonstrated low SARS-CoV-2 transmission in the school setting.”
The page continues to cite several studies, including one in Los Angeles County, California that “compared COVID-19 student case rates in 39 school districts that implemented TTS to 39 school districts using traditional quarantine” for a one month period in late 2021.
“The ratio of student COVID-19 case rates in TTS districts compared with non-TTS districts was similar before and after TTS adoption. Schools implementing TTS did not identify tertiary transmission among school-related outbreaks.”
A second study of “90 K-12 schools” in Lake County, Illinois that implemented Test To Stay in the fall 2021 semester found “secondary transmission remained low, at 1.5% among 1,035 students and staff members enrolled in the program.”
“None of the secondary cases appeared to transmit SARS-CoV-2 to other school-based contacts,” reads the website.
Both of the studies required that the COVID-19 exposure had to have occurred in the school setting, meaning outside exposures like an at-home positive case exposure would not be eligible, both the exposee and the exposed would have to be masked, and the exposed had to remain asymptomatic “to attend in-person school” while participating in Test to Stay, and physical distancing was required “when feasible.”
The guidance still recommends several of the things Greenbrier Valley residents have heard before.
“CDC guidance identifies multiple prevention strategies that schools can implement in a layered approach to promote safer in-person learning and care. These include promoting vaccination, consistent and correct use of masks for people who are not fully vaccinated, physical distancing, screening testing in schools to promptly identify cases, improved ventilation, handwashing and respiratory etiquette, staying home when sick and getting tested, contact tracing in combination with isolation and quarantine, and routine cleaning with disinfection under certain conditions.”