On February 17, Harwood Unified Union School District (HUUSD) superintendent Brigid Nease wrote to The Valley Reporter about the district’s systematized COVID response, revealing how it has managed to keep up with contact tracing after the state asked school districts to take over their own contact tracing in mid-November.
There have been 20 coronavirus cases in the school district since September. So far, following the December holiday, every school in the district has been forced to close due to coronavirus cases and the number of staff in quarantine.
“We have the contact tracing down,” said Nease. “We have demonstrated that we can isolate and box in the problem spots and quickly get everybody back to regular operations as soon as the virus allows. Our reopening strategies are successful.”
“As soon as we get a call, everything stops. We must stand ready at ‘command’ as we call it,” said Nease. “For example, our Warren situation occurred early Saturday morning. There went the weekend.” In this situation, the district was already contact tracing at the high school, so it had 50 students from the high school on its “line list” of close COVID contacts from Harwood, and 34 on the line list from Warren.
“The line list is a template tracking system really, not just a list,” said Nease. Each coronavirus case in the district has its own line list.
To make the line list, the core contact tracing team starts by reviewing the system of seating charts it created to identify close contacts. “Once there is a positive case identified, the staff are notified and interviewed about each space,” said Nease.
The line list for any given case can grow quickly. In grades preK though sixth, for instance, the entire class pod is put on the line list for a when there is a case in the class.
The principal and teaching staff are responsible for submitting seating charts and teacher interviews about who has been standing close to Nease and Conyers, the district’s COVID coordinator, then the calls begin.
While noting that it requires dropping everything and working weekends in some cases, Nease said “That said, it is what we do. We keep students safe. Period, whatever it takes.”
When asked what else the public should know about contact tracing in the district, Nease said, “Don't worry, Be happy. We got this.”
She also reminded the community that spring is on the way, which will bring some benefits of its own. “We are hopeful and eager to get back outside and return to school five days a week,” said Nease. “It feels like we are on the other side of this huge mountain.”