Tama Co. schools plan for COVID-19 reporting

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All Tama County public schools including South Tama, Gladbrook Reinbeck, GMG, North Tama and Union are back in session following a five month hiatus due to the coronavirus and summer break.

Schools have had plenty of decisions to make in regards to dealing with the global pandemic. How and if to report cases to the public is just one of those decisions schools are working through.

To this point, the state of Iowa has given no guidance to schools on how to report if there are outbreaks within Iowa’s public schools. The Iowa Department of Education nor the Iowa Department of Public Health are reporting confirmed cases of the disease. Thus each school’s reporting is up to their own discretion.

At GMG, Superintendent Ben Petty said they have communications prepared that would go to individuals that are positive cases, close contacts to a positive case at school, and for group contacts of a positive case, such as notifying the family of students that may be a part of a team that has a positive individual, even if those team members are not considered exposed by public health per the close contact definition.

Close contact is defined by public health as being within 6 feet for 15 or more consecutive minutes.

According to the CDC quarantine refers to someone who might have been exposed to COVID-19 away from others. Quarantine helps prevent spread of disease that can occur before a person knows they are sick or if they are infected with the virus without feeling symptoms. People in quarantine should stay home, separate themselves from others, monitor their health, and follow directions from their state or local health department.

GMG also plans to have an information dashboard on their school website. The dashboard will be updated at the end of each week with county positive test rates, and the overall number of district students and staff that have either tested positive or that are newly starting to quarantine that week due to public health determination that they were in close contact with a positive individual. That information dashboard can be found on the GMG website under “Quicklinks”.

Gladbrook-Reinbeck Superintendent, Erik Smith, said he would be sharing weekly updates on Fridays with the public.

North Tama and South Tama have very similar plans for how to deal with reporting.

At North Tama, Superintendent David Hill said their current practice is to send an email notification to the parent/guardian of every student in the district as well as every school employee when a positive case has been identified in the district. In addition, we have created a data dashboard which can be found on their district website.

South Tama does not plan to send an email notification to the parent/guardian of every student in the district as well as school staff.

However, according to Superintendent Jared Smith, they have created a data dashboard which can be found on the district website. This dashboard is not live at the time of deadline but should be by the end of the week. It will look almost identical to the dashboard that North Tama created.

Jessica Wilkerson is tracking COVID-19 data for the South Tama district.

Lastly, Union is planning to report COVID-19 Data to parents, staff and school board each Friday through email.

Superintendent Travis Fleshner said as far as the state guidance on reporting, “I feel that varies county to county. I feel we are trying to be transparent with our data but conscious of protecting the individuals. This report also allows us to share any new information with our stakeholders each week.”

Meskwaki Settlement School is a private school however they were contacted but no response was received by the time of deadline.

At the time of deadline GMG had two individuals newly quarantined per public health guidance due to exposure to an individual that was positive and no confirmed positive cases. G-R had three confirmed exposures last week and six total with no confirmed cases. As of September 10, North Tama had no active cases and no isolations due to in school exposure. There are four students/staff in isolation due to out of school exposures or awaiting test results.

Initial numbers for South Tama were not immediately available but school officials encourage community members to look for data dashboards in the coming days on their school websites.