Hundreds of students and teachers are in quarantine around Green Country as the number of COVID-19 cases rise. More people may be impacted after the CDC redefined what counts as “close contact.”
For months, the CDC said “close contact” meant spending a solid 15 minutes within six feet of someone who tested positive for coronavirus. On Wednesday, the CDC changed its definition to a total of 15 minutes or more, meaning shorter but repeated contacts that add up to 15 minutes over a 24-hour period are now included.
The change may prompt health departments to do contact tracing in cases where an exposure might previously have been considered too brief.
Most school districts News On 6 checked in with said they are working with health leaders to integrate the new guidelines. Experts said the changes will impact both the reporting and contact tracing process.
Sperry and Skiatook High Schools are among the latest to pivot to distance learning due to COVID-19, the districts announced Friday.
Three Sperry high schoolers tested positive, leading to 17% of the school's students and three staff members to quarantine. At Skiatook High School, four students tested positive, resulting in eight staff members and 120 students quarantining.
Dr. George Monks with the Oklahoma State Medical Association said the changes have big implications since more people will now be quarantined.
"I think it's based on fact,” said Monks. “I'm hopeful that it may be a way for us to try to curve COVID, not just in our state but within the United States."
Shawna Mott-Wright with the Tulsa Classroom Teachers Association said parents and teachers have expressed concerns.
“And they're basically asking, 'How? How are we going to do this now with the new info that the CDC has brought to us?'” explained Mott-Wright. “And we're like, 'We don't know.' So, we're asking the district."
As districts around the country adjust to the updated guidelines, leaders ask for patience and flexibility.
"Everybody's doing the best they can, and we have to continue working together and listen to each other," said Mott-Wright.
Mott-Wright also said it's too early to know whether these updated guidelines will impact plans the board recently voted on for Tulsa Public Schools to return to the classroom.
Tulsa Public Schools shared this information with News On 6:
“Close contacts” traced by staff refers to the number of cases when a staff member or student is confirmed to have been in “close contact” with another staff member or student who has self-reported positive results for a COVID-19 test. Prior to Oct. 21, “close contact” was defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention occurs when an individual is within 6 feet of an infected person for at least 15 minutes starting from 2 days before the infected person’s diagnosis. Please note that we are working with the Tulsa Health Department to understand how best to integrate the CDC’s revised “close contact” guidelines into our reporting and contact tracing process.
Owasso Public Schools shared this statement with News On 6:
“We are aware of the CDC’s recent update regarding the definition of close contact. Our practices and procedures are aligned with this most recent guidance. We continue to adhere to the practices and procedures established by the CDC and supported by the Tulsa County Health Department in an effort to prevent the potential spread of COVID-19, keep our students and staff members safe, and keep our school buildings open.”