MCSD suspending contact tracing for COVID-19, bringing most quarantined kids back to school

Moffat County High School stands ready to welcome students to a new school year.
Cuyler Meade / Craig Press

Moffat County schools will no longer require students to quarantine who have been exposed to an individual who has tested positive for COVID-19.

Instead, according to a letter from Moffat County School District superintendent Scott Pankow received by school parents at 5:20 p.m. Thursday, the district will inform parents of students in 1st through 5th grades of a positive test in the student’s building, or in a particular class for middle or high school students. Parents will be asked to “take responsibility to monitor their student daily for symptoms.”

“If any student has any COVID-like symptoms, the student needs to remain home until they are symptom free for at least 24 hours with no medication, or get tested,” the email reads. “Kindergarten and preschool classes will still have classroom-wide quarantines due to the nature of those classes.”

The letter indicates that the district is experiencing a high number of cases and quarantines in the school district, which have coincided with a 33% positive test rate in Moffat County.

“Our goal is to keep well, non-symptomatic students in the building continuing learning,” the email reads. “This only works if students that are sick stay home while they are experiencing symptoms.”

The email invites currently quarantined students between first and 12th grades who are quarantined due to a school exposure and are asymptomatic to return to school and normal activities Friday. Students who are quarantined from their own positive test must remain at home through the previously dictated isolation period.

The COVID-19 virus spreads even among the asymptomatic. A release from Memorial Regional Health this week indicates that the newer Delta variant of the virus spreads faster and more easily than the original version. Individuals under the age of 19 are the most prevalent positive tests for the virus over the last week in the county.

Children under the age of 12 do not have access to a vaccine for COVID-19 yet. Moffat County as a whole lags well behind the state with an eligible vaccination rate of just over 41%.

School board president JoAnn Baxter said that the issue was there were far too many children out of school relative to the number who were actually testing positive.

“We want kids in school if we can,” she said by phone Thursday evening. “Our testing protocols have not been as robust as we’d hoped they’d be, so we have been trying to test every kid on quarantine, which has put an unusual burden on our staff. We went to county commissioners and they gave us a waiver to limit the quarantines so we’ll have fewer kids out. We have so few active cases and so many quarantines, it doesn’t make sense.”

Baxter noted that this protocol could very well change again as soon as Monday, but that for now, this was the course they were setting.

“I don’t have a concern about this being a dangerous step,” Baxter said. “I have a concern about our rate of vaccination in the county and whether or not people are being appropriately masked. We are highly recommending people who have not been vaccinated to wear masks, but we’re not changing that policy now.”

The district will hold drive-through testing twice a week at the Moffat County High School back parking lot between 10:30 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. on Tuesdays and 8 a.m. to 9 a.m. on Thursdays.

More Like This, Tap A Topic

Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

Readers around Craig and Moffat County make the Craig Press’ work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.

Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.

Each donation will be used exclusively for the development and creation of increased news coverage.