Dear HVRSD School Community:
I am writing regarding the recent increase in COVID activity in our area. Yesterday, our area entered the “orange” phase according to the New Jersey COVID-19 Activity Level Report. This change in status is due to the number of confirmed cases in the "Central West" region. The rate per 100,000 was 29.72. This elevated case rate is balanced by two additional markers that remained in the “yellow” (moderate) range. As a result, our region turned “orange,” indicating a high COVID-19 activity level.
What does that mean for HVRSD?
When an area moves into the "orange" phase, as explained in the New Jersey Regional Risk Matrix, schools may consider a transition to fully remote learning, but if they choose not to, they must follow specific guidelines. Fortunately, to ensure the safety of our students and staff, the district opted to adhere to these steps prior to the start of the new school year and has continued to do so since September. As an added layer of safety, we will be adjusting our screening questions and exclusion guidelines. Details will be shared next week.
We have planned for a temporary move to full remote learning from Wednesday, November 25-December 6 and aim to return to our hybrid model on December 7. However, we will continue to monitor the state indices to determine if further action is required. Please be prepared for a change in our schedule.
How many cases have we had in HVRSD?
To date, we have had 14 confirmed cases in our district. For your reference, we have placed a COVID Dashboard on our website that lists each case. Six of those 14 cases involved either fully remote or already quarantining students and/or staff. We believe the remaining 8 cases were due to transmissions that occurred outside of school. The district’s case rate is significantly lower than the local, state, and county numbers. Together, we are doing an admirable job and we are working exceptionally hard to uphold all safeguards while providing a meaningful education, both in-person and virtually.
How are determinations made regarding closures?
While many school districts follow the New Jersey Department of Health guidelines, which permit a school to remain open if they have a confirmed case, we have taken a very conservative approach to dealing with confirmed COVID cases in HVRSD. When it is determined that a case exists in a school, we will close that school for at least one to two days to complete contact tracing and deep cleaning. Additionally, we have decided to notify our entire school community when we learn of cases involving remote students and staff, even if those infected were not present in our schools during their infectious period or when the test results were received. These cases do not necessitate a school closure.
If our region is designated to be in the “red” phase in the future, we will be forced to move to virtual learning at all of our schools. We hope this does not happen, but the decision will be beyond our control at that point. In the meantime, we will continue to monitor all data and cases to ensure the utmost safety for our students and staff.
Terminology: Contagion, Isolation, Quarantine and Close Contact Notification
In an effort to clarify the terms being used around COVID cases, I have included a glossary of terms (below) provided by our community partner, Princeton Nassau Pediatrics.
Hopewell Valley is an incredible community, and I am confident we will continue to persevere as we have done over the past eight months. As we face this next phase, we remain committed to providing a meaningful education in the safest educational environment possible for our students and staff.
Terminology: Contagion, Isolation, Quarantine and Close Contact Notification*
Contagion and Isolation - The person with COVID-19 is considered to be contagious from 2 days BEFORE they developed symptoms until 10 days AFTER their first day of symptoms. The contagious period is the time during which it is believed that they may spread the disease to others. During this time, they should isolate and not leave the home unless going to a medical facility. They should notify any medical facility that they have tested positive before arrival.
Close contacts and quarantine for household members - The contagious period starts two days before the first day of symptoms or in asymptomatic positives, two days before the day the test was performed. A close contact is defined as anyone who was within 6 feet of the infected person during this time for more than 15 minutes. A list of close contacts is generated that fits this description. All household members are considered to be close contacts and are recommended to quarantine for 14 days from the LAST day that they were exposed to the household member with COVID-19 while they are contagious.
Since the infected person is contagious for 10 days, that means that the household members could be quarantined for as long as 24 days if the infected person cannot be isolated. To avoid this and to quarantine safely in the house, the New Jersey Department of Health recommends that the infected patient stay in their own room as much as possible, use their own bathroom, always wear masks when outside their room and eat all of their meals in their own room. If a household member is unable to do this in their home, the 14-day quarantine period begins the first day that they are able to effectively quarantine the household member.Though masks are very helpful, they are not factored in while determining who needs to quarantine.
Notification of Close Contacts - All close contacts will be notified by the Department of Health. Healthcare providers may notify families in advance of the department of health. Remember, this is a community effort to protect each other!
Testing of Exposed Individuals - If someone suspects or confirms that they were exposed, they should quarantine immediately and should contact their health provider to determine if they should be tested. Students should not attend in-person school or any events outside of the home. Other household members do not have to quarantine, as long as the exposed household member is asymptomatic. Exposed students should not attend school. Exposed individuals without symptoms should contact their healthcare provider to determine if they should be tested.
*Source: Princeton Nassau Pediatrics