Jul 19, 2020 11:18 AM

Baldetti: COVID response in schools up to districts, unless state intervenes

Posted Jul 19, 2020 11:18 AM

By NICK GOSNELL

Hutch Post

HUTCHINSON, Kan. — Reno County Health Department Director Nick Baldetti didn't know Governor Laura Kelly was going to call for a delay in the start of the 2020-2021 school year. He can see her point from a purely epidemiological perspective, but the decision needs to be more nuanced and targeted than that.

I think, if we are solely speaking on the foundations of epidemiology and disease investigation, simply not aggregating bodies in one place, such as we do in school, would certainly be beneficial. With that said, I think every public health professional was all surprised by the information of an Executive Order that's delaying school."

So, what happens if there is COVID-19 activity in a school this year?

"The public health department would work very closely with each school district in concert with each individual school itself in terms of activity, should we have a positive COVID-19 case," Baldetti said. "Epidemiologically, we would associate the investigation status with the plans that each school is putting into place, establishing classes as cohorts, not intermingling those classes, etc."

The hope would be to at the very least keep any school closures at a building level if absolutely necessary, but maybe even being able to just do deep cleaning at a classroom level, depending on the specific circumstances of the infection.

"Things are changing almost daily," Baldetti said. "That's some semblance of the plan that's being discussed with superintendents right now," Baldetti said. "If there's further direction that's given to us at higher levels, then obviously that shifts, but that's the expectation."

It remains to be seen if there is some push back from the State Board of Education and maybe a further change in policy before kids get back to school.