By Liz Nolan, Contributing Writer
Northborough/Southborough – Northborough-Southborough Public Schools District Medical Advisory Team member Dr. Andrea Ciaranello, an adult infectious disease doctor, presented at the Northborough K-8 School Committee meeting Nov. 4. She shared emerging overall data and considerations related to COVID-19. Funding for asymptomatic staff and student screening was also discussed.
“We are starting to see some data emerge about in-school transmission and overall it seems to be very rare,” Ciaranello said. “It seems to be rare even in places with moderate or high community rates of COVID, and where it has happened, it seems to be associated with lack of masking.”
She emphasized that the data is pretty clear that kids become severely ill much less often than adults.
Northborough-Southborough school data reported that there have been 23 confirmed cases associated with the school, and from these 23 cases there were 93 close contacts identified and quarantined; 78 of these were full classroom quarantines. Only one student was identified as a close contact from a non-classroom school activity. All were tested and none were COVID-19 positive.
Northborough K-8 schools report four positive cases. Of those, there were 32 close contacts identified and tested with no positive cases.
Ciaranello said the risk that someone with COVID will enter a school “is really a function of the community rates and what is happening outside the school and also people’s out-of-school exposures.”
The district’s risk mitigation strategies that are in place are important, which include wearing masks, proper distancing, ventilation, reduced occupancy, hand washing, cleaning and disinfecting.
“We will run into issues associated with just having too many people quarantined to be able to operate a school, I think, before we might see in-school transmission if people are really doing all these mitigation strategies,” Ciaranello said.
“There’s not that much we can do about the chance that someone walks in the door with COVID, but we can do a lot about making sure that if they do, they don’t spread it to someone else so that going to school doesn’t increase your risk of getting it more than anything else you may be doing in the community,” she said.
The next step of the district’s risk mitigation strategy is screening of asymptomatic students and staff.
“The idea would be to just to try to identify people who didn’t know they had COVID before they could pass it along to people,” Ciaranello said. “I think it is a really nice way to potentially just make our current learning model even safer, protect our educators as well as our students and then potentially permit additional in-person schooling.”
Superintendent Greg Martineau said this has been a recommended strategy from the very beginning.
“We do feel like it is a path forward to really thinking about increasing the in-person learning time especially for our youngest students,” Martineau said. “The price point of these screenings is getting to the point where there is more hope to systematically implement these screenings.”
The district has been investigating ways to make this happen and to obtain needed funding. Some funding through the CARES Act will be received, but additional community partnership and donations are being explored.