Previously, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention defined exposure to a COVID-19 case as being directly exposed to fluids from the mouth or nose or being within 6 feet for 15 minutes or more with or without a face covering. Any student who met these criteria was required to quarantine for 14 days.
After reviewing data from the first nine-week grading period, both districts have adjusted their definition of close contact to being directly exposed to fluids from the mouth or nose or being within 6 feet for 15 minutes or more.
Students who are within 6 feet of a case for 15 minutes or more will not have to quarantine if both students were wearing a district-approved face covering for the duration of the contact.
According to NBISD Superintendent Randy Moczygemba, the district initially decided to adopt the CDC guideline because it was not yet clear if masks would be effective in controlling the spread of COVID-19.
“Absent any data, we went by the CDC guideline,” Moczygemba said. “Reviewing our data, only five individuals out of 689 total who were quarantined contracted COVID-19 from exposure at school.”
Of the five transmissions that were traced back to school exposure, four occurred during athletics practices where masks were not worn, and one occurred during lunch when masks were also not worn, Moczygemba said.
“Our data indicates that when all students are wearing a mask, we have had zero transmissions within the classroom and other spaces where they’re wearing masks,” Moczygemba said.
Since Sept. 28, NBISD has had 498 close contacts that have been quarantined, and as of Oct. 12, NBISD reported 15 current cases, 63 symptomatic cases and 425 exposures to a lab-confirmed case.
In total, the district has reported 32 confirmed cases among students and 9 confirmed cases among staff since returning to school Aug. 24.
CISD reported 10 current cases, 60 symptomatic cases and 93 exposures to a lab-confirmed case as of Oct. 12, down from 163 exposures Oct. 4.
Both districts will implement the new guidelines Oct. 19.
“We feel confident about the change, but if the change results in students contracting COVID-19 while wearing a mask, we will come back and address that again,” Moczygemba said.
Both districts reiterated approved face coverings include medical- or non-medical-grade disposable or cloth face coverings that cover the mouth and nose. Students who were wearing face shields alone or neck gaiters will not qualify as having worn approved face coverings, as those coverings will not preclude a student from being quarantined.
Parents will still be notified of cases in their children’s classes so they can monitor them for symptoms, Moczygemba said. Parents and teachers will still have the option to choose to quarantine according to the previous guidelines.
“We’ve got to have the kids protect themselves from COVID-19 outside of school,” Moczygemba said.
Both school districts will begin their second nine-week grading period Oct. 19, and students in each district had the opportunity to switch between in-person and remote learning ahead of the new grading period.
Officials from both districts said they expect more students to attend in-person classes during the second nine weeks, and students whose attendance was low during the first quarter must enroll in on-campus learning.