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COVID-19 Positive Case Communication and Parent/Guardian Expectations

November 11th, 2020

As Howard County Public School System staff continue to prepare for, and work toward the return of students to our physical classrooms, it is important that parents/guardians understand when they will be notified of positive cases in their child’s school community, as well as the expectations for parents/guardians to promptly notify school staff if a family member tests positive or is displaying symptoms.

Positive Case Communications

When a confirmed case of COVID-19 impacts a school community, parents/guardians can expect that the school or school system will inform them of the positive case. These notifications will include any implications for the instructional delivery model and information on how to help ensure your child remains healthy. Additionally, if your child is considered to be a close contact, as defined below, to a student or staff member who has tested positive or is displaying COVID-like symptoms, you will receive notification with instructions on how to respond.

If a classroom or school must close due to an outbreak, parents/guardians will be notified and provided with information on how instruction will continue. Additionally, parents/guardians will receive notification when the classroom or school is scheduled to reopen.

Please note that in accordance with laws protecting the confidentiality of students and staff, the name of a person who has contracted or is displaying symptoms of COVID-19 will not be released, nor will any other information that could lead to their identification. The Howard County Health Department is the health authority on all matters related to COVID-19 and will guide HCPSS and lead the response to positive cases and all identified close contacts.

Parent/Guardian Notification Expectations

The Maryland Department of Health (MDH) requires HCPSS to provide the following guidance regarding the identification, reporting and quarantining of people exhibiting COVID-like symptoms and close contacts.

COVID-19-like illness is defined as:

  1. Any 1 of the following: cough, shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, new loss of taste or smell, OR
  2. At least 2 of the following: fever of 100.4-degrees or higher (measured or subjective), chills or shaking chills, muscle aches, headache, sore throat, nausea or vomiting, diarrhea, fatigue, and congestion or runny nose.

MDH defines close contacts as: Persons within 6 feet for 15 or more cumulative minutes within a 24-hour period during the last two days before the onset of symptoms of a person identified as testing positive for COVID-19 or a person experiencing symptoms of COVID-19.

If you believe your child has symptoms consistent with COVID-19 or your child has been in close contact with someone with COVID-19 symptoms, including anyone who lives in your home, please keep your child home from school and contact your child’s school nurse or principal immediately.

In alignment with guidance from MDH, should your child become symptomatic during the school day, they will be evaluated by the nurse and sent home, if needed, with direction regarding isolation and quarantine. If your child is determined to have been in close contact with a symptomatic child or staff member, they will be sent home and parents/guardians will be provided with guidance regarding quarantine. In addition to phone contact, parents/guardians of students sent home from school may receive letters from the Howard County Health Department regarding their particular situation.

Parents/guardians will be notified and when needed, provided with instructions when a student or staff member in their child’s school displays COVID-like symptoms or tests positive. Specific details will not be provided to ensure confidentiality. Parents/guardians will also be provided with guidance if your child is considered to be a close contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19 or is displaying symptoms.

If your student becomes ill during the day and it is determined that they need to go home, it is extremely important that the student be picked up as soon as possible, and within one hour. To make this process easier, we are asking all families to:

  1. Please be sure that your Family File is updated with your CURRENT contact information. It is imperative that we have a means to get in touch with you in a timely manner.
  2. Also in your Family File, please make sure your emergency contacts are updated with current contact information. Please notify everyone that you have designated as emergency contacts, that if they get a phone call to pick your child up from school, they will need to be able to get there within one hour.

There is nothing more important to us than the safety and health of our students, our staff, and their families. These guidelines were developed in conjunction with the State of Maryland and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Thank you for working with us to keep our students safe.