Communication Protocols - Investigation of Potential and/or Confirmed COVID-19 Cases
NEW COVID-19 COMMUNICATION PROTOCOLS EFFECTIVE FEB. 21
As you may know, the district maintains a dashboard on our website that lists all positive cases in our schools at www.pcsb.org/covid19cases. That dashboard is updated each work day and is searchable by location and date.
Additionally, in an effort to keep everyone overly-informed, principals have been sending out schoolwide messages every time a positive case is confirmed in their school. In many cases this is leading to families receiving multiple calls and emails per week and is causing confusion and message fatigue. We recognize that sending too many messages reduces their effectiveness. We have been asked to simplify the process to ensure families only receive the most essential communications, so we will be updating our protocols moving forward.
Beginning February 21, we will do the following:
- Notify by phone and email any student or staff member who is identified as a direct contact and must quarantine.
- Update the district’s COVID Public Dashboard every weekday at noon with cases confirmed the previous day.
- Add a link to the district’s COVID Dashboard (pcsb.org/covid19cases) to the homepage of every school’s website.
Beginning February 21, if you do not receive a call, then your student has not been deemed a close contact of a positive case and should attend school normally. If at any time you would like additional information about the number of cases at your student’s school, or the safety protocols being followed, we encourage you to submit a question on the Dashboard webpage or reach out to the school principal.
As always, we ask everyone to monitor themselves for any sign of illness. If we all do our part, we can continue to keep our school family healthy and safe.
Case investigation and contact tracing are well-honed and effective tools to slow the spread of COVID-19 in a community. All investigations and contact tracing are led by the Department of Health, in collaboration with Pinellas County Schools (PCS) School Health Services. A dedicated COVID-19 team within PCS School Health Services department has been established to ensure every reported case is reviewed and handled appropriately.
As investigations of this nature include personal medical information and health data, much of the information is private and protected by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and other applicable state and federal regulations. The process below outlines the steps that will be taken for each potential or confirmed case as well as the type of communication that will occur.
Case(s) Reported at School or District site
The district requests that any student or employee who has a confirmed case or has been recommended for quarantine/isolation by the Pinellas Department of Health (DOH- Pinellas) or medical professional report this to your school or district administrator. While Pinellas County Schools will be made aware of cases by DOH-Pinellas, support from our families and employees to self-report will support the district in taking next steps in an expedited manner. (Note: Employees will be asked for specific documentation and should refer to the Employee Section for additional details.)
- School and district administrators will report potential exposure or reported confirmed case to the PCS COVID-19 Team.
- The district PCS COVID-19 Team will collaborate with the school/district administrator and the school nurse to gather information to provide to DOH-Pinellas, so they can begin contact tracing and make decisions about whether individuals, entire class, school, department or building needs to isolate or quarantine. Questions may include:
- Documentation/confirmation of positive testing
- Symptoms exhibited
- Last day present at the school/worksite
- Individuals or groups of people who had close, prolonged contact (defined as spending at least 15 minutes with someone less than 6 feet apart)
- Based on the responses to the questions above, information will be provided to DOH-Pinellas and a recommendation will be made about the need to isolate/quarantine.
- Persons who self-report a positive test, or parental report of a positive case in their student, will be reported to the DOH-Pinellas for confirmation
- In general, household members, intimate partners of a positive case who are considered presumptive positive cases and individuals who had close contact (<6 feet) for a prolonged period of time (≥15 minutes)
- All investigative and confirmed cases will be handled in accordance with the guidelines established by DOH-Pinellas.
- Contact tracing and investigative processes remain the role of DOH-Pinellas.
- DOH-Pinellas will take the lead on contact tracing and will contact affected families and staff directly to determine risk level. DOH-Pinellas will also provide direction on testing and self-isolation.
- School health staff and the PCS COVID-19 team will provide assistance and support of these efforts.
- Any schoolwide or other closure decisions will be made in conjunction with DOH-Pinellas and PCS leadership.
- Confirmed case information will be communicated in alignment with all federal and state confidentiality rules.
- Confirmed case information is relayed from DOH-Pinellas to the PCS School Health Services department.
- Impacted individuals (students and/or employees) will be notified if there is a need to isolate/quarantine through a letter from DOH-Pinellas that will be shared with the impacted families and staff.
- Confirmed case information will be shared with leadership at all affected sites so the proper cleaning and disinfecting protocols can be completed.
- If there is a decision made for a classroom, school or district closure, the following communication will occur.
- The district/school will communicate general closure information with all impacted families, in alignment with all federal and state confidentiality rules.
- A media alert distributed to all local media outlets, if appropriate.
- A classroom or school closure will be communicated to school staff directly by the Principal and/or Area Superintendent/Chief.
- A classroom or school closure will be communicated to families by the Principal or designated school staff using the following methods:
- Classroom Closure
- DOH-Pinellas letter sent home to families;
- Individual phone calls to affected families;
- School Messenger phone call, text and email to non-affected families to explain the nature and expected duration of the closure and actions being taken to keep remaining staff and students healthy and safe; and
- Communication will include Department of Health contact information.
- School Closure
- DOH-Pinellas letter sent home to families;
- School Messenger phone call, text and email to families to explain the nature and expected duration of the closure and actions being taken to prepare for the safe return of students and staff; and
- Post on school-specific social media.
- Classroom Closure
The district will continue to provide regular updates in the following ways:
- All information will be continuously updated on the dedicated COVID-19 district webpage: www.pcsb.org/coronavirus
- Families and community members will receive district updates via district School Messenger phone calls, texts and emails, FOCUS messages and social media posts.
- Employees will receive updates via district email with after-hours School Messenger phone calls, texts and emails, as needed.
- If the need for districtwide closure arises, this information will be shared using the following methods:
- School Messenger phone call, text and email to all families and staff;
- Post on district website homepage;
- Post on all district social media; and
- Media alert distributed to all local media outlets.
COVID-19 Employee Case Protocols
Covid-19 Student Case Protocols
Confirmed COVID-19 Cases