The overall number of COVID-19 cases reported by Texas public schools was reported Sept. 17 on the Texas Department of State Health Services website. Beginning Sept. 23, Texas Education Agency, working in collaboration with DSHS, will weekly provide public schools COVID-19 case data by school district on the TEA website.
The reported count of on-campus student cases of COVID-19 in the state’s public schools is 2,344 out of an estimated 1.1 million students who have been on campus for instruction or activities since the beginning of the 2020-21 school year. The total count of on-campus staff cases during the same period is 2,175, according to press releases from TEA and TDSHS.
The number of student and staff COVID-19 cases in Texas public schools will be updated each Wednesday, and starting next week will include data by school district on TEA’s COVID-19 website.
TEA previously directed all school districts to submit information about COVID-19 cases going back to the start of the school year. Information is submitted via an online form each Monday by those school systems that were notified in the previous week that a student, teacher, or staff member who participates in any on-campus activity has tested positive for a current COVID-19 infection. Antibody tests, which indicate a previous infection, are not required to be reported.
The data, according to the state agencies, is intended to “provide an overview of the burden of disease in Texas schools over time and inform public policy decisions about COVID-19.”
Reporting this information to the state does not replace the legal requirement that schools notify public health officials in their area of all cases, for Hopkins County, notification would be made to the Local Health Authority. Schools will also still be required to inform all parents, teachers, and campus staff of any positive cases tied to their on-campus instruction or activities, per TEA guidelines.
When a student or employee case is reported to the school district, the designated school personnel begin a case investigation, which includes contacting any individuals determined to be in “close contact” with the infected individual.
According to the LHA, “close contact” is defined as being “within 6 feet for 15 minutes or more to an infected person.” LHA Nurse Brynn Smith noted that not all exposures are the same. High-risk exposures require a “14-day quarantine no matter what.” Critical Infrastructure personnel may differ.
The LHA recommends waiting at least 3-5 days or until symptoms begin before being tested to ensure accuracy. Most favorable is 5-7 days after the last known exposure.
Students and staff determined by the school or LHA to have been in close contact with a COVID-19 infected person will be directly notified as soon as possible; they will be required to remain off campus for up to 14 days to ensure they do not have the virus, so that there will not be any further spread.
An exposed household (considered high-risk exposures) needs to quarantine as well. Proper isolation and quarantine is key to reduce spread.
For those with symptoms, isolation may end after 10 days, provided the individual has had no fever and or symptoms without medications for 24 hours. The length of isolation may also depend on severity of symptoms and person’s health history.
Individuals who test positive but do not have COVID-19 symptoms may be able to end isolation 10 days after test results are received, if they experience no onset of symptoms for the duration of their isolation.