Here’s how officials are using COVID-19 contact tracing in schools

Seminole County Public Schools using seating charts to find possibly exposed students

Currently, there are 182 students, teachers and staff quarantining after cases in schools in Seminole County, of those 70 are from Lake Brantley High School, which stemmed from three isolated cases in the first 12 days of the new school year.

“One of the first things we ran into the first week of school, we had a couple of students who were confirmed positive test results for COVID-19,” said Principal Brian Blasewitz. “What happens from there is we have to start our contact tracing.”

Blasewitz, with the help of his own campus’ COVID team, begin contact tracing at the recommendation of the Florida Department of Health in Seminole County and using guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“The definition of direct contact would be within 6 feet of each other within 15 minutes or longer,” Blasewitz added.

But how do you contact trace if a student has several different classes? That’s where Blasewitz turns to seating charts required by every teacher for every class period.

“We are full steam ahead with the seating charts, it’s arguably the most important part of contact tracing,” he said.

The seating chart allows for Blasewitz and his staff of contact tracers to narrow down the students who were the closest to the positive case, then using the charts will determine which surrounding students would need to quarantine.

[Database: Tracking coronavirus in Central Florida schools]

“We try to be as surgical as possible with regard to making sure that we only quarantine people who were in direct contact with that individual, whether it’s a student or staff we have to be as surgical as possible in making sure everyone is safe,” Blasewitz said.

While also making sure they aren’t being disruptive by quarantining students on the other side of the classroom who may not have been at risk of exposure.

“So if you have a kid by the door of the classroom and the kid that is in the way back corner, that kid in the back corner wouldn’t necessarily have to be quarantined because they didn’t have direct contact,” Blasewitz said. “Then we don’t have to disrupt that right to an education.”

This is an approach Blasewitz said many schools are utilizing to contact trace. He said the district’s transportation office has also required seating charts on buses to help with contact tracing. Blasewitz said once they narrow down the possible students who were exposed, they then send the list to the Florida Department of Health in Seminole County who then notify those that need to be quarantined for the next 14 days.

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