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Area school districts scramble to keep up with contact tracing

Published: Nov. 13, 2020 at 7:06 PM CST
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SCHOFIELD, Wis. (WSAW) - Officials at the Marathon County Health Department and the Portage County Health Department said they can’t keep up with contact tracing because of the huge number of COVID-19 cases.

That means school districts are having to step up for their kids, teachers, and employees.

The D.C. Everest Area School District and the Stevens Point Area School District told NewsChannel 7 that the work never stops.

They are in communication with the health departments several times daily about finding students and staff who may be in close contact with COVID-19

As cases of COVID-19 are on the rise, school districts scramble each day to contact trace and box in the virus.

“It is a burden, it’s taking a lot of time, but the way we look at it is, it’s just different work now and it’s what we have to do,” Stevens Point Area School District Assistant Superintendent Cory Hirsbrunner said.

Close contact is defined as anyone within six feet of a person for over 15 minutes who has tested positive for COVID-19.

It’s the school’s job to contact trace within their own walls.

“Families appreciate the fact their kids are in school... It’s not easy, it’s frustrating I think at times when you know that your child is a potential close contact,” D.C. Everest Area School District Director of Student Services Jeff Lindell said.

Contact tracing can be a long process for districts and once they’re informed by the health department or a parent of a positive case, the district will then do everything from checking seating charts to reviewing video footage.

Once they have gone through all of the layers, the district then calls the close contacts and report back to the county.

“So we need to identify where that student was and then any individuals, staff, or students that have been in close contact,” Hirsbrunner said.

Once students are identified as close contacts, they’re required to stay out of the building for at least 14 days and learn from home, and the school administration is proud of everyone’s work so far.

“I want to give a ton of credit to our staff and our students, they’ve put in all the extra precautions to limit the level of spread,” Lindell said.

Both D.C. Everest and Stevens Point Area Schools haven’t had any problems with contact tracing so far, but they admit they get better at it each day.

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