As many of you already know the CDC has recently updated the K-12 recommendations.
Will the Boise Schools District decide to follow the new guidance?
Our guess is yes.
They haven't strayed too far from previous guidance before, why would they now?
The school board has a meeting on Monday Jan 10, 2022 and the district will provide the board with a pandemic/endemic plan update (F-1) as part of the agenda. Since it is not listed as an “action item”, no votes will be taken and we are unsure if that means that updates to the plan will just be presented or take place.
So here’s what MAY be in store for our kids and staff.
Test to Stay for the Unvaccinated
The new K-12 school recommendations say children who have not been fully vaccinated and are exposed to the coronavirus should quarantine for at least five days after their last close contact with a person who has COVID-19. Adults who are not vaccinated against COVID-19 or who have not received a booster shot are advised to follow this recommendation, too.
Day 0 is considered the first day of symptoms or the day of a positive viral test for people who do not have symptoms. People whose symptoms are improving can leave isolation after five full days if they are fever-free for 24 hours. They should wear a mask around others for an additional five days. The previous CDC guidance for K-12 recommended at least a 10-day isolation period for people infected with the virus.
Since Boise School kids and staff wear masks anyway the only difference will be 5 days rather than 10 days of missing school. However, according to the CDC, the unvaccinated will need to quarantine UNLESS they "TEST to STAY".
If the schools implement this rule then they will know who’s unvaccinated and who is vaccinated, further discriminating kids and families. The only way around this is to either, not test to stay or test to stay everyone…
From the CDC-
Who needs to quarantine?
Students, teachers, and staff who came into close contact with someone with COVID-19 should quarantine for at least 5 days (day 0 through day 5) after their last close contact if they are in one of the following groups:
People who are ages 18 and older and completed the primary series of recommended vaccine, but have not received a recommended booster shot when eligible.
People who received the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine (completing the primary series) over 2 months ago and have not received a recommended booster shot.
People who are not vaccinated or have not completed a primary vaccine series.
These individuals could also be eligible for Test to Stay programs that would allow them to stay in the school setting during the quarantine period. Outside the school setting, quarantine recommendations would apply.
Who does NOT need quarantine?
Students, teachers, and staff who came into close contact with someone with COVID-19 and are in one of the following groups do not need to quarantine:
People who are ages 18 and older and have received all recommended vaccine doses, including boosters and additional primary shots for some immunocompromised people.
People who are ages 5–17 years and completed the primary series of COVID-19 vaccines.
People who had confirmed COVID-19 within the last 90 days (tested positive using a viral test).
So basically unvaccinated people or people not up to date on their shots will need to “test to stay” if exposed to someone who is covid-19 positive OR isolate for 5 days. It really makes no sense since naturally immune people are protected and the vaccinated are still unprotected and get spread it.
How will this testing thing go down exactly without discriminating kids and staff? If you have been around a person who is covid-19 positive and you are unvaccinated, you must “test to stay", but how will the schools know if you are not vaccinated?
This is a tricky scenario for the schools. They'll want to follow the CDC guidance but how?
BSD spokesman, Dan Hollar said to KTVB in November- Boise Schools District have not been tracking the number of students who receive the vaccine. In the future, they may ask parents to inform them of their child's vaccination status, however, it would be optional for parents to participate.
Maybe it’ll be “don’t ask, don’t tell” all over again.
We won’t ask if you are vaccinated and you won’t tell us you were exposed…
Next we have “screening testing". This idea of screening testing will allow schools to find the infected person before the infection spreads to others. So who is encouraged to screen test? The unvaccinated. The unvaccinated students and staff are encouraged to screen test once a week and before extra curricular activities according to the CDC.
Per the CDC-
Screening testing can be used to help evaluate and adjust prevention strategies and provide added protection for schools that are not able to provide optimal physical distance between students. At a minimum, screening testing should be offered to students who have not been fully vaccinated when community transmission is at moderate, substantial, or high levels (Table 1); at any level of community transmission, screening testing should be offered to all teachers and staff who have not been fully vaccinated.
To be most effective, the screening program should test at least once per week, and rapidly (within 24 hours) report results. Screening testing more than once a week might be more effective at interrupting transmission. Schools may consider multiple screening testing strategies, for example, testing a random sample of at least 10% of students who are not fully vaccinated, or conducting pooled testing of cohorts. Testing in low-prevalence settings might produce false positive results, but testing can provide an important prevention strategy and safety net to support in-person education.
To facilitate safe participation in sports, extracurricular activities, and other activities with elevated risk (such as activities that involve singing or shouting, band participation, and vigorous exercise that could lead to forceful or increased exhalation), schools should consider implementing screening testing for participants. Schools can routinely test student athletes, participants, coaches, and trainers, and other people (such as adult volunteers) who could come into close contact with others during these activities. Schools should consider implementing screening testing of participants up to 24 hours before sporting, competition, or extracurricular events. Schools can use different screening testing strategies for lower-risk sports. High-risk sports and extracurricular activities should be virtual or canceled in areas of high community transmission unless all participants are fully vaccinated.
So with all of this said. It sounds like the vaccinated or those "up to date" on their vaccines will be treated differently than the unvaccinated or not "up to date" on their vaccines.
How will the school implement testing and quarantining to the unvaccinated when they can't ask whether one has been vaccinated or not. Will schools begin to discriminate between the vaccinated and the unvaccinated? Will they screen test everyone?
How can this rule of testing just the unvaccinated be justified when vaccinated people can easily get Covid-19 and spread it just as effectively as the unvaccinated?
All tough questions that the board will have to figure out.
With Omicron looking more contagious but less virulent than Delta, perhaps the best strategy is to stay home if you have symptoms and do not feel well. Take care of your self, get better and return to school/work when you know you will not infect others... kinda like what we did with the flu or previous colds and infectious illnesses.
Why should we need to test healthy people to find out if they might be sick or not, why should we single out unvaccinated when the vaccinated can just as easily get it and spread it?
It seems counter productive and unnecessary.
The only good that comes from the new guidance is the 5 days of isolation rather than 10. The testing business seems like a bit of over kill.
If you have symptoms, stay home, period.
As you know Boise schools still mandates masks (one of 3 districts still mandating masks out of 167). We need to keep up the pressure to encourage them to offer choice. Remember that our movement is always pro choice and not anti anything… We support those who want to vaccinate and wear masks if that works best for them. We do know that mandatory masking at school does not provide much, if any, reduction in COVID spread (omicron, in particular) and comes with a slew of unintended consequences, some of which we may not even know about yet.
Austin and Oregon schools are now suggesting the N-95 masks or double masking, as “cloth masks don’t work”. Boise schools should really consider not following suit but if they do recommend double masking or N-95s, that’s all it should be, recommendations. Mask choice should start with just that… mask choice. The current harm to our children will only increase if double masks or N95s are required and likely won’t prevent anyone from contracting omicron, as Dr. Bramwell of St Lukes said himself at the 12/17/21 CDH board meeting “everyone’s gonna get this.” Furthermore, there is a warning on the N95 box that alerts the user to potential injury or death due to misuse, the CDC guidance says the wearer must pass a medical evaluation and the N95s require a tight seal around the face, which children (and most adults) are unlikely to achieve.
Let the school board know what you think and remember to be kind.
They are volunteers who are doing their best to navigate this tough time, let’s treat them with respect. Flood their inboxes. firstname.lastname@example.org
Tell them you want mask choice and do not want to “screen test” or “test to stay” the unvaccinated, as it is discrimination and will segregate our kids and alienate them, not to mention that it will likely do very little, if anything, to reduce covid transmission and is likely to force the schools to go remote over an abundance of asymptomatic or mildly ill positive covid tests.
Have a great rest of your holiday break, enjoy the fresh air and see you back to school on Monday.