A Safe Thanksgiving, Other Reminders and Updates
November 19, 2020
As we approach the upcoming holiday week, I want to emphasize the state’s guidelines, advisories, and orders that are in place as well as clarify our own local protocols. With great support from the entire community, we started school on September 8 and have had 48 successful in-person days since then. This upcoming week is critical in ensuring that we can continue the course we set. If we begin to see big outbreaks in one or more schools, it could force us to remote learning for a period of time. As I said last week, I do not see that happening for months but even switching between models for weeks disrupts the in-person momentum that we built. The topics below reflect advisories and orders from Governor Baker, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (MDPH), and the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE). Where we locally vary from them, it is clearly noted. The final items outlined here are for your information hoping to offer clarity and avoid confusion.
MDPH issued a Thanksgiving Advisory in late October. The advisory emphasizes that the safest approach to Thanksgiving this year is to remain only with immediate family. We cannot stress enough that with virus rates spiking, it can be very risky to host any kind of typical Thanksgiving event. We urge caution and a conservative approach so we do not see outbreaks result from the holiday.
We continue to mandate compliance with the state’s requirements in the Governor’s Travel Order meaning quarantine or negative test is necessary after visiting a high risk state. This applies to all students returning to school. Maine and New Hampshire will be added to the high risk category later this week. Only Hawaii and Vermont will then be considered low risk along with Massachusetts. There is no question that avoiding travel is the safest option. We urge you to consider staying home unless it is unavoidable.
Revised Quarantine Timeline
Yesterday, MPDH released revised quarantine guidelines for those identified as close contacts to a positive COVID case. The revised guidelines allow for an option of a negative COVID test on Day 8 in order to leave quarantine on Day 10. In consultation with the local health officials, the schools will NOT be allowing this option so all close contacts will need to quarantine for 14 days.
College Students Returning to the Community
Many families have older children in the home returning from colleges in high risk states who then must comply with the travel order. In addition, via a letter to the community local health officials remind returning students of the need to avoid groups, wear masks, and comply with the 10 p.m. Stay at Home Advisory. Many school age families have older children in the home so we bring this to the attention of the school community to ensure safety over the upcoming college break.
Given how many of you graciously are assisting with transportation, it is important to highlight the MDPH advisory about safe carpooling. Everyone in the car should be masked unless they are from the same household. We will also remind you that the car could create a close contact situation and later require quarantine should someone test positive.
Antigen Testing in Schools
Likely you saw yesterday that some schools will receive free antigen testing provided by DESE. We were in agreement with local health officials not to participate for a number of reasons including: antigen tests still require PCR tests, testing is available only for symptomatic staff or students, other communities are currently at higher virus rates and supply was limited. Monitoring of testing options is continuous should the appropriate opportunity arise for our schools.
Tonight’s Local MDPH COVID Metric
As occurs every Thursday, MDPH will release local community virus rates. It is important to share that the release tonight will include an outbreak of over 100 cases at the prison. While there are definitely more cases in Concord over last week, please do not be alarmed at seeing such a dramatic spike. We are unsure how clearly the data will indicate this so wanted to share it ahead of time.
The cooperation, flexibility, and engagement of everyone has brought us this far. I am optimistic that an ongoing collective effort will bring us into December successfully. Thank you so much.