EHS Covid Response
November 18, 2020
None of us thought, in March 2020, that we’d still be where we are today. Still not back to normal, still not back to in-person school, still with the possibility of going to all online school. Nothing about 2020 is easily predicted, which is why we have to take all of the precautions we possibly can.
That starts with transparency about COVID cases. An anonymous Eagan student comments that “we don’t have transparency.” Another student goes further to note that she “doesn’t even know how many cases Eagan has had.” The communication regarding COVID cases has been poor since the beginning of the school year. Students are worried, teachers are worried, everyone is worried.
Without communication, “we cannot make choices for the safety of others in our lives,” an Eagan student comments. If a student is not aware they have been exposed, they are not able to protect their family members who may be at a higher risk than most Eagan students.
As of right now, students are getting emails notifying them of the case if they have been within 6 feet of that person for longer than 15 minutes. This method is extremely subject to negligence, creating danger. While teachers are told to be keeping tabs on their students and making sure everyone is distanced, it’s not hard to miss something. The school is also only contact tracing to primary contacts, meaning other people may have been exposed without knowing.
One student even notes that “within the first week there were a couple of teachers out and such who got exposed and neither [her] or my mom got an email until a day and a half later,” meaning they may have been exposing others unknowingly. It has been very clear among students that the general belief is that “they should have a better system of letting people know.” The lag to the system as well the reliance on memory and observation for contact tracing leaves a lot of room for mistakes.
“Not telling us there’s an issue isn’t working. We have people dying,” one student notes. The handling of the COVID cases in District 196 has been extremely mismanaged, there is no secret there. Now with the high likelihood of transferring back to full online school, the stakes are even higher. Change needs to happen and it needs to happen now. People are dying. This should be non-negotiable.
We have all received the emails containing the subject line, “Important COVID Update,” regarding recent exposures our school has had with COVID-19. In fact, there was one sent out two days ago. By opening the link sent in this email, one can see the efforts the school is going to in order to keep students safe from the virus.
However, many students are saying that it would be more helpful if the name of the student who contracted the virus was disclosed, that way they can be the judge of whether they were within six feet of them and need to quarantine. Although many people say this is the safer option, there are strict guidelines the school must follow (HIPAA) in order to keep patient confidentiality. However, the school is taking precautions you might not have known about in order to keep hybrid learning an option.
Once someone tests positive, the first step is an interview. This takes place between the student and the COVID Response Team, which is composed of the principals and the nurse. Questions such as when their symptoms arose, what the symptoms were, and when they were initially exposed are covered in the interview.
After an interview takes place, teachers of the student are contacted. Although teachers are required to seat each student at least six feet apart, there are instances in which this is broken. The COVID Response Team finds out from the teacher what took place in class during the days the student was in class, and if they were not social distancing during the period.
If someone was in close contact, they are notified by the school. These contacts may include classmates, the person they ate lunch with, someone they chatted with in the hall, or teammates. “We call [all the close contacts] and they need to quarantine for 14 days,” Principal Polly Reikowksi said. “[They] can go get a COVID test, but it won’t be valid if they test negative. No one tests out of quarantine.”
One of the main concerns students have about exposure is the hallways. While walking during passing time, it’s evident that social distancing is not always happening or even possible. Reikowski, however, assured that this is not a danger for being exposed. “Fifteen minutes of exposure,” she said, is what the Health Department states is needed to contract the virus. “Walking past someone in the hallway, as long as they’re masked and you’re masked, it’s a very short interaction so you’re not going to get fifteen minutes of that.”
Although this is a source of worry, Reikowski and teachers try to enforce social distancing as much as they can, but are very proud of the way students handle the hallways. “If we see kids pausing or stopping we move them along,” she said, but noted that students are doing a great job of getting from class to class quickly and efficiently, so this is often not necessary.
Not knowing if you’ve been exposed is stressful, and the school understands that. Nevertheless, all of the precautions staff and the COVID Response Team are making should ensure the most amount of safety possible.
If you are worried about being exposed, do your part to social distance while at school and sports, and always keep your mask on. The school does all that it can, but it’s up to you to do all you can as well.