CORONAVIRUS

Eastern Iowa schools see positive coronavirus cases, no indication of community spread

Cedar Rapids, Iowa City and College Community release public data tracking positive cases, students in quarantine

Alternative kindergarten paraeducator Christa Douglas greets kindergartner Levi Dye and his mother Amber Dye on the firs
Alternative kindergarten paraeducator Christa Douglas greets kindergartner Levi Dye and his mother Amber Dye on the first day of school at Viola Gibson Elementary School in Cedar Rapids on Monday, Sept. 21, 2020. Parents dropped off children at the outside doors due to coronavirus protocols as students returned to school for the first time since March. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)
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After about a month into the new school year, Eastern Iowa districts are reporting a rise in cases of COVID-19 among students and staff, but do not see indications of community spread on their campuses.

The districts have been tracking the number of students and staff who have tested positive for the novel coronavirus or been quarantined since the start of the academic year, which began later than usual for several districts, especially after the derecho damaged Cedar Rapids schools.

Sandra Byard, Cedar Rapids Community School District health services facilitator, said no classrooms or students in the district have had to quarantine because of contact with a positive case.

The district is following new guidance from Gov. Kim Reynolds that no longer recommends people quarantine after coming in contact with a person who tests positive for COVID-19 if both individuals were wearing face masks.

“We’re still going to be quarantining students if they have had their mask off for any portion of time and were within 6 feet of a positive case,” Byard said, adding that it’s difficult for students to social distance during lunch when they have their masks off to eat.

The district is requiring the use of masks, using hand sanitizer and washing hands frequently and encouraging social distancing in school.

“We would hope that’s why we have so few cases in schools,” Byard said.

The Cedar Rapids district began releasing the number of positive COVID-19 cases of students and staff just last week.

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Byard said the district is trying to be as transparent as possible as families make decisions about what learning model to enroll their children in the future.

The numbers are posted weekly to the district’s website. As of Friday, the district’s first week of reporting this data, 10 students and 32 staff had tested positive.

Byard said no entire classrooms have had to quarantine because of an exposure. Byard said because of privacy concerns she can’t publicly identify the buildings students who have tested positive attend.

Face Masks Must Be Worn in Iowa City

The Iowa City Community School District quarantined a classroom of fewer than 10 students last week, the first exposure in the district that has lead to an entire classroom quarantining.

The Iowa City district updates on its website the umber of positive coronavirus cases and the number of students and staff quarantining because of exposure.

As of Wednesday,:

• 68 students were currently positive;

• 109 students were currently quarantining due to exposure;

• 126 students have tested positive since Aug. 15, including current and recovered cases;

• Seven staff members were currently positive;

• Nine staff members were currently quarantining due to exposure;

• And 43 staff members have tested positive since Aug. 15, including current and recovered cases.

Jessica Jimmerson, who oversees contact tracing and quarantine, said although the district has positive cases, it is not multiple students in the same classroom.

The Iowa City district is continuing to quarantine students who came into contact with a positive case even if they were wearing a face mask, despite the governor’s latest guidance.

Before moving from online learning to the hybrid learning model Sept. 28, the district also specified that face masks must be worn, and that gaiter guards or shields alone are not effective.

Cases Remain Low, School Nurse Says

Colleen Elliott, College Community School District supervisor of health services, said school districts are doing a good job of managing the coronavirus under Reynolds’ and the Iowa Department of Education’s requirements for students to attend 50 percent of classtime in-person.

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“We’ve got 6,500 students and 1,000 staff members, and we’re keeping case numbers small,” Elliott said.

The College Community district updates weekly on its website the number of students and staff who have active positive cases or are quarantined.

As of Wednesday, 18 students and eight staff members had tested positive since the start of the school year.

Elliott said she knows of only one student in the district who was exposed in school by another student and became positive.

Last week, a positive case at the district’s Prairie High School led to three other students being quarantined.

“Those students may have ridden in a car with the positive student, or hung out in the parking lot before school or eaten lunch together,” she said.

“We’re doing a great job in my opinion if you can have that amount of people in your community and keep your cases low.”

Comments: (319) 398-8411; grace.king@thegazette.com

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