Clear Creek ISD officials, UTMB chief medical officer discuss district’s COVID-19 mitigation efforts

UTMB Chief Medical Officer Gulshan Sharma—who is also a Clear Creek ISD parent—joined several district leaders in an Oct. 27 livestream event concerning COVID-19. (Jake Magee/Community Impact Newspaper)
UTMB Chief Medical Officer Gulshan Sharma—who is also a Clear Creek ISD parent—joined several district leaders in an Oct. 27 livestream event concerning COVID-19. (Jake Magee/Community Impact Newspaper)

UTMB Chief Medical Officer Gulshan Sharma—who is also a Clear Creek ISD parent—joined several district leaders in an Oct. 27 livestream event concerning COVID-19. (Jake Magee/Community Impact Newspaper)

Heading into the Halloween weekend, Clear Creek ISD is working to curtail COVID-19 case clusters at an elementary campus and a secondary campus.

The uptick in cases comes on the heels of several school spirit events and large non-school gatherings, Superintendent Greg Smith said, which could be potentially responsible for the infections.

Smith was joined by Holly Hughes, CCISD assistant superintendent of elementary education Holly Hughes; Marina Keeton, lead nurse and coordinator of health services; and Gulshan Sharma, chief medical officer for the University of Texas Medical Branch, who is also a CCISD parent, on Oct. 27 for a COVID-19 update via livestream.

During the livestream, Smith pointed to homecoming festivities and off-campus social gatherings as likely coronavirus spreader events. CCISD’s high schools held homecoming events in mid-October.

Although the district modified its football schedule to allow for proper social distancing, games have been postponed this fall as players have reported positive COVID-19 test results. An Oct. 30 matchup between Clear Falls and Clear Lake high schools is being rescheduled for early December due to two positive COVID-19 cases and additional players in self-quarantine on the Clear Falls varsity team, per an Oct. 30 media release.

“It’s not worth participating in [a] game if you’re feeling sick,” Smith said during the livestream, encouraging players to put the health of the community over their own desires to play. “Stay home, because you could infect an entire team.”

As of midday Oct. 30, a total of 47 COVID-19 cases are considered active in CCISD, the highest number to date during the 2020-21 school year.

Of those, 12 cases are at Clear Brook High School, seven are at Clear Springs High Schools and 10 cases are at Ferguson Elementary; no other campuses have more than five active cases listed. Of the total cases, 12 are among staff, and the remaining 35 are among students.

The active cases dashboard is updated daily at 4 p.m., and any new cases reported after that time are added at 8 a.m. the following day. Based on community feedback, the district will begin reporting cumulative case counts by week, CCISD Chief Communications Officer Elaina Polsen said during the Oct. 27 livestream.

Active cases among Clear Connections students are monitored and put into a tracking app, but they do not appear on the dashboard unless the student is coming to campus for after-school activities, district officials said.

The process of identifying and responding to cases is not linear, Hughes said during the livestream. For example, a third-grade classroom at Ferguson Elementary moved to the district’s School-to-Home model as cases began presenting, but the cases did not present all at once: The class in question involved team teaching, so those in the other part of the team-taught classroom did not begin reporting positive cases until a little later, Hughes said.

“We have responded to that as quickly as possible,” she said. “We’re realizing all too well the importance of masking and distancing at all times and being very aware of symptoms at home and symptoms within the classroom. ... I know that it can always be seen that we could have acted faster, but we do feel like the swift actions that we’ve taken [have] reduced the spread within the campus.”

As noted in several of the district’s COVID-19 response protocols, closures happen once the number of suspected or confirmed cases in an area reaches or exceeds 10%. Smith said this 10% threshold is one factor in the equation when it comes to closures, along with guidance from Sharma and from the newly formed CCISD Medical Advisory Group.

“I think the success here is all based on everybody actually stepping up and taking responsibility,” Sharma said during the webinar as he commended the district’s response to date. “I have said so many times: This virus is going to be with us. It's looking for a friendly environment. ... As long as we are masking and limiting the gathering of large groups of individuals, I think we are going to be fine.”

Click here to watch the full 49-minute livestream, which includes more insights from Sharma about masking for students of all ages as well as tips for hosting safe Thanksgiving holiday gatherings.
By Colleen Ferguson
A native central New Yorker, Colleen Ferguson worked as an editorial intern with the Cy-Fair and Lake Houston | Humble | Kingwood editions of Community Impact before joining the Bay Area team in 2020. Colleen graduated from Syracuse University in 2019, where she worked for the campus's independent student newspaper The Daily Orange, with a degree in Newspaper and Online Journalism from the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications and a degree in Spanish language and culture. Colleen previously interned with The Journal News/lohud, where she covered the commute in the greater New York City area.



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