Contact tracing in schools: How it works and how you can help

Amherst County School District explains what goes into contact tracing

Multiple school districts are quarantining students because of COVID-19, causing schools in our area to temporarily close.

AMHERST COUNTY, Va. – As COVID-19 continues to spread, Amherst County High School closed its doors Tuesday for contact tracing but will be back open Wednesday.

Superintendent Rob Arnold told 10 News district staff were working well into Monday night contact tracing when they got a call about another positive case.

“We basically didn’t have the time to turn around and get all of the contact tracing done plus the quarantine calls,” said Arnold.

Instead of risking students exposed to a positive COVID case going back to school the next day, the decision was made to close the high school.

Arnold said contact tracing is taking a lot longer than it did last year because there were fewer students in the classroom.

“You have to look at bus film, cameras in the gym to see where students have been and so we have a lot of staff that are doing that and once you determine who the close contacts are then you have to make contact,” said Arnold.

He’s just asking families to be patient.

“It’s only five days in and they’re really working hard to make sure these things (contact tracing) can happen and I want them to know that I’m proud of our staff and I want folks to give our task a little bit of grace, these are not easy times,” said Arnold.

Cali Anderson, a VDH COVID-19 epidemiologist in Lynchburg said regardless of what setting school, event or work you can be a big help to contact tracers.

“Our contact tracing is very limited to people who are willing to give up their close contacts so the more that they can have, community members, doing it themselves the better,” said Anderson.

It can be confusing, Anderson explains when you get that call on the person exposed needs to quarantine.

“In general our guidance is a contact of a contact of a contact is not a contact so if your school reaches out and says your child has been exposed and they need to quarantine only the child themselves needs to quarantine,” Anderson said.

She said the only time parent or other family members would need to quarantine is if the student or person exposed develops symptoms during the quarantine.

Anderson also mentioned the reason why it may seem like more students are getting quarantined is the changes to quarantine guidelines.

“If a student or staff member is in a classroom and is less than three feet from a positive case they do need to quarantine. If they are between, three and six feet and an exposed individual is wearing a mask, they do not need to quarantine,” said Anderson.

About the Author:

Megan Woods is thrilled to be back home and reporting at Local 4. She joined the team in September 2021. Before returning to Michigan, Megan reported at stations across the country including Northern Michigan, Southwest Louisiana and a sister station in Southwest Virginia.