School districts and public health departments will be working hand in hand as school begins and COVID-19 continues to circulate. Governor Kim Reynolds announced additional guidance for putting students and staff back in classrooms. Washington County Public Health Director Danielle Pettit-Majewski explains community transmission levels of COVID-19 will play a big part in determinations, “Our community transmission will impact what schools do moving forward with the year. When we talk about community transmission, we are looking at the positivity rate of tests. And your positivity rate of course you’re going to find based on how many tests are done and how many are positive. And then we’re going to look at that over a 14-rolling day average because there’s some fluctuation with when tests are processed or there can be delays for when they come in. Which is why it’s really important that we look at that average so we can figure out what our community transmission is.”

She adds that school districts that cross county lines will follow the county with the highest rate of transmission for guidance on when to look at moving to online education for 14 days.

School districts can request a waiver from the state for up to 14 days of online learning if there is 15-20% positivity in a county and 10% absenteeism among students for in-person learning or if there is greater than 20% positivity in a county and there are healthcare resource capacity concerns.

Pettit-Majewski shares what will happen if a student or staff member tests positive for COVID-19, “Whenever we see a student or a staff member test positive, what we will do is we will go through the regular disease process like we do now, the disease investigation and contact tracing process. And what’s really helpful is we’ve had these conversations with the schools about how important it will be for children to be in assigned seats.” Those assigned seats in classrooms, lunchrooms, and on buses will make contact tracing more accurate and go quicker.

Currently the state website doesn’t provide a county by county 14 day rolling positivity rate, but Pettit-Majewski said they’ll work to provide that rate daily.