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Public health officials: Contact tracing will be in ‘full force’ by start of school year

The 2020-2021 school year will look different nationwide due to COVID-19.
The 2020-2021 school year will look different nationwide due to COVID-19.(KOLO)
Published: Jul. 30, 2020 at 2:47 AM EDT|Updated: Jul. 30, 2020 at 5:33 AM EDT
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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - As coronavirus cases climb, many schools across Kentucky have announced plans to start the fall semester with virtual instruction. Nevertheless, the state is still working on plans for a safe return to the classroom.

In a video call Tuesday, public health and education officials announced revisions to Kentucky’s Healthy at School Plan along with other new guidance. Department for Public Health deputy commissioner Dr. Connie White told superintendents on the call that several health guidelines were updated to meet CDC recommendations.

"We only know what we know when we know it, and as we learn new things we want to be sure we are giving you the best and most up to date advice," she said.

Under the original Healthy at School plan, people who tested positive for COVID-19 would have to wait at least 10 days after symptoms appeared and go 72 hours without fever, without the use of fever-reducing medication, before returning to school. While people still must wait 10 days after the onset of symptoms, they would now only need to be fever-free for 24 hours. A negative COVID-19 test would be not required to return to school.

During the video call, officials also shifted their stance on plexiglass shields in classrooms. After advising against its use, Department for Public Health immunization branch manager Emily Messerli said plexiglass shields could be used in classes with young children or special needs students who may have difficulties wearing masks.

"We don't want plexiglass to be used in older children just to fit a whole bunch more kids in the classroom, we still need to have masks on and six feet as much as possible," she said.

The revised Healthy at School plan also modifies symptoms that can send people home. The original guidelines advised anyone with a cough be sent home which inadvertently included people with pre-existing conditions. The new rule would send home those with a “new, uncontrolled cough” which causes trouble breathing.

Mark Carter with the Cabinet for Health and Family Services also spoke to superintendents about contract tracing during the video call.

"The virus has been spreading rapidly and while we've stayed ahead of it thus far, our ability to stay ahead of it depends on having the right staff in place," he said.

Carter said a system of about 1,100 contact tracers statewide is expected to be in full force by the time the fall semester starts

During the meeting, officials also announced new guidance regarding school lunches and flexibility for assigning staff during the pandemic.

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