Amid record-setting COVID surge, health department moves to end contact tracing in schools

·2 min read

After a record-setting week of COVID-19 cases among Indiana's schoolchildren, some schools are ending their contact tracing protocols with the blessing of the Indiana Department of Health.

The health department said Friday it is trying to ease the reporting burden on schools as they contend with the latest surge. This week's update of the state dashboard tracking COVID-19 cases in schools reported more than 15,000 new cases among students — more than twice as many reported at any other point in the pandemic.

And the state set a new one-day record for cases reported in the general population Friday, reporting 17,684 new cases.

Study Hall: Get all the latest schools news in your inbox with IndyStar's education newsletter

The department issued new guidance this week that allows schools to end contract tracing programs and individual notification of close contacts for those schools that have mask mandates in place. Those schools may, instead, send classroom-wide notifications of positive cases, said a spokesperson for the department.

Schools with mask mandates in place will also see a reduction in required state reporting.

There are no such changes for schools that do not have mask mandates enforced.

The change is that latest effort to incentivize schools into putting mask mandates in place. Earlier this school year, the state change guidance to greatly reduce quarantines in schools with universal masking. Earlier this month, it reduced quarantines even further for those schools.

Schools without universal masking policies must continue to contact trace, quarantine students identified as close contacts and report that information to the state.

Almost immediately, several districts began notifying families they would be amending their contact tracing policies.

"With the large influx of cases statewide, there is a possibility that your student may be exposed to the virus either in the community or at school," Carmel Clay Schools said in a message to families. "To prevent multiple notifications of exposure for families, individuals will no longer be notified."

Instead, the district will do larger notifications. Slides presented to schools from IDOH direct schools to do general notifications for impacted classrooms and provide reminders of mitigation strategies.

Westfield Washington Schools said it will do weekly building-wide communications to relay positive cases and mitigation strategies. It will also stop reporting the number of close contacts identified.

A mask mandate was in place for all schools statewide last year but was abandoned over the summer and masks were made optional. It's unclear how many schools still have mask mandates in place.

Call IndyStar education reporter Arika Herron at 317-201-5620 or email her at Arika.Herron@indystar.com. Follow her on Twitter: @ArikaHerron.

This article originally appeared on Indianapolis Star: State health department: schools can stop contact tracing

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting