COVID-19 outbreaks in schools: What you need to know

We’re working for you to break down what outbreak means when it comes to your kid’s school

You've heard the term "outbreak" - but what does it actually mean?

FRANKLIN COUNTY, Va. – You’ve heard so many terms about COVID-19: quarantine, isolation and outbreak.

We’re working for you to break down what outbreak means when it comes to your kid’s school.

There have been hundreds of cases of COVID-19 reported among students and staff across the region. Thousands of others have had to quarantine.

“There is a mixed response from parents,” said Jason Guilliams, Franklin County Schools Director of Operations, who added one pre-k class has quarantined twice in a three-week period already this school year. “That’s the last thing you want for your 4-year-old is to have to miss something they look forward to for so long and they’re having to miss because they’re on quarantine.”

Guilliams said figuring it all out is difficult.

“Contact tracing has just been a bear for our administrators. It’s been a day-long adventure and even into the weekend and into the evening for many of them,” said Guilliams. “I’m in daily contact with the department of health. It is a time-consuming endeavor. In classrooms we do have assigned seats, we have seating charts that we go to. Buses are a little more difficult.”

Guilliams said they often have to review bus cameras to determine who’s been a close contact.

But what does the word “outbreak” mean? You’ve heard the term thrown around.

The Virginia Department of Health defines an outbreak by two or more confirmed COVID-19 cases that are associated with that particular setting like school, long-term care facility, restaurant, gym, etc.

Here’s information from the latest VDH update;

  • Amherst County Public Schools has an outbreak in progress with 75 cases reported
  • In Campbell County, Brookville Middle and Yellow Branch Elementary both have an outbreak in progress
  • In Montgomery County, Margaret Beeks Elementary has an outbreak in progress with ten cases.
  • Franklin County has an outbreak in progress at Benjamin Franklin Middle School with nine cases. But about 50 cases have been reported at that school so far this month.

Guilliams said they’re trying to move forward.

“We’re constantly looking at and evaluating our processes. It’s every day, we’re constantly evaluating. Can we do something different? Is a neighboring division doing something different that we can do?,” said Guilliams.

About the Author:

You can see Jenna weekday mornings at the anchor desk on WSLS 10 Today from 5-7 a.m. She also leads our monthly Solutionaries Series, where we highlight the creative thinkers and doers working to make the world a better place.