RICHMOND, Va. -- As some students in Henrico and Chesterfield prepare for their eventual return to the classroom, a health expert said even with high caseloads, proper mitigation strategies are proving effective in preventing the spread of COVID-19 in schools.
“Each mitigation strategy, think about it as Swiss cheese, and it has holes. So if you can layer up those mitigation strategies, nothing is 100%. But it will reduce the likelihood of having like a child get another child sick or child get a teacher sick, or vice versa,” Chtaura Jackson, School Epidemiologist for Richmond Henrico public, private, and daycare facilities, said.
Jackson said some private schools have remained in person throughout large portions of the pandemic.
She said despite high community transmission and caseloads, the mask-wearing, hand washing, and social distancing strategies being practiced in these private schools have prevented cases from spreading through schools.
“So they're still seeing an increase in cases coming to the schools,” said Jackson. “But their mitigation strategies have stopped it from spreading within schools. And that is the main reason why we're not seeing really any outbreaks in schools because of these really good, strong mitigation strategies.”
Along with mitigation strategies, Jackson said private schools conducting in-person learning have also been good at identifying cases right away and isolating them.
“So if you can identify those cases, and you can isolate those cases, identify the close contacts of those cases, you can prevent that from spreading,” said Jackson.
Jackson added that school nurses have played a major role in contact tracing and limiting the spread.
“Whether it's contacting us that okay, we identify the case, they've already looked at the seating charts, have gone into the class and measured the distance to be able to identify that. So they're doing a lot of the groundwork,” Jackson said.
Some Henrico Public Schools had, at one point, been set to return to in-person learning Monday, but delayed due to school nurses being needed to assist in vaccination efforts, according to a release sent out by the district.
“It’s really important to have them there. They have that institutional knowledge,” said Jackson.
Jackson said with the efforts of school nurses to isolate cases and proper mitigation strategies in place in schools, it would be safe for students to return to the classrooms, even with high community caseloads.
“What they're doing, and the mitigation strategies and working as a school as a whole, I'm very confident in the school's ability to to go back,” said Jackson.