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Positive COVID-19 test triggers Alpine school's contact tracing protocols

Posted at 3:55 PM, Oct 16, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-16 20:36:34-04

ALPINE, Calif. (KGTV) - The Alpine Union School District reporting its first positive COVID-19 case since in-person learning began a month ago.

Around 9:30 a.m. Thursday morning, staff at Boulder Oaks Elementary received a call from a parent.

"Heard from a parent their child was in fact positive for COVID-19," said District superintendent Rich Newman.

Newman says immediately, contact tracing protocols kicked in. The student was part of a hybrid-learning group, and Thursday was a distance learning day. Within an hour, school and school district officials had mapped out the student's contacts since Monday.

"We were able to trace the student from the classroom seat to the restroom they used, to their seat at lunch, to the health office -- their path on campus," said Newman.

The final tally: 10 students, a teacher and a support staffer who had been within six feet and spent 15 minutes or more with the student. An hour later, the school was providing the list of contacts to county health officials, while staff began calling the impacted parents and students. Electrostatic cleaning was done in affected locations. Newman says the contact tracing was effective because of extensive planning. Students are asked to stick close to their classroom grouping throughout the day.

"We were able to track their day because we've assigned locations for lunch, we've assigned restrooms to use. We know when they went to health office and which areas they went for outside breaks," said Newman.

Once the tracing was complete, the impacted students and staff were asked to quarantine at home for 14 days and switch to distance learning. The affected staff were given COVID-19 tests.

Newman believes the breadth of their COVID-19 measures will make a big difference.

"We hope these protocols will ensure, when these cases happen, we will stay open for in-person learning," said Newman.

Boulder Oaks Elementary has about 500 students and 50 staff. The school district offers drive-thru COVID-19 testing for its staff every two weeks.