A Message from Dr. Steinhauer About the District's COVID -19 Response

Update: October 27, 2020

Dr. Steinhauer led a panel discussion with Assistant Superintendent Dr. Ron Davis and Deanna Hess, Chair of the District's Health Services, to answer some of the frequently asked questions about the recent cases in the high school and the District's overall response to cases of COVID -19 in the District. The discussion was filmed and the link to watch is posted below.

Watch the video.


October 23, 2020

A message from Dr. Steinhauer About the District's COVID-19 Response

As a result of some positive Covid-19 cases in a few of our schools, we have received questions from a few community members regarding our response. 

The Pennsylvania Departments of Education and Health provided school districts with guidance on how to respond to COVID cases in school districts across the Commonwealth;  this guidance has always directed local school districts to consult their local health departments in making decisions, ranging from quarantining students and employees to closing a school. 

The PDE guidance clearly states: “When a case of COVID-19 is identified in a school setting, public health staff from DOH or the County or Municipal Health Department (CMHD) will work with school administrators to provide guidance and advice related to cleaning and disinfecting, contact tracing and quarantine recommendations, and closing certain areas of the school or the entire school building if necessary. When an entire school is recommended to close, lengths of closure time will vary by level of community transmission and number of cases. This allows public health staff the necessary time to complete case investigations and contact tracing, and to provide schools with other appropriate public health advice like cleaning and disinfecting.”   Our District diligently adheres to the PDE’s directive to consult with the Allegheny County Health Department (ACHD) concerning all of our COVID-19 related cases. As a reminder, this information is also included in our Health and Safety Plan. 

Our chief liaison with the ACHD is the chair of the District’s Health Services Department, Ms. Deanna Hess,MSEd, BSN, CSN, RN. Ms. Hess consults with the ACHD for each and every COVID-19 related case in the school district. Ms. Hess is an expert in her field, has a long standing relationship with the ACHD, and is in contact with them multiple times a day or night, as needed. When she discusses our case(s) with the county, they review all aspects so there is a clear understanding of the context and circumstances surrounding each case. 

Ms. Hess oversees the contact tracing for our school community, works directly with parents and employees to follow-up on testing results which may determine the need to isolate (if there is a positive test result) or quarantine (if there is close contact). Any decision to quarantine, suspend activities, and/or close a school is done in consultation, and at the recommendation of, the ACHD. Based on an individual’s date of symptoms or positive test date, Ms. Hess also establishes the date a student or employee may return to school or work. 

Here are some of the factors the ACHD considers in decision making related to school operations (remaining open or needing to close)  and/or need to quarantine: 

  • Examination of the case (s) in relation to the cohort

    •  Are the students/staff connected?  

    • Who is in the cohort?

    • Is there a connection to anyone in a classroom or a sports team/activity/ learning pod?

    • Are the students/staff 6 ft apart?

    • Are barriers in place if less than 6 ft (close contact)? 

    • Are face coverings worn?

  • When was the last time an employee or student was in school/activities?

  • Where in the facility was the case(s) located?

  • What was the deep cleaning schedule?

  • Is time needed for contact tracing?

Additionally, we are aware of the CDC’s new guidelines related to the definition of close contact and are in consultation with the ACHD and are awaiting their review and guidance related to this definition. In the meantime we continue to follow the current close contact guidelines from the ACHD and PA Department of Health. 

As always, we need your help to keep our school community healthy and our schools open. Self-screen each day before coming to school; stay home when sick; wear a mask; wash your hands often; maintain physical distance; avoid large gatherings; do not come to school or activities while awaiting COVID test results; cooperate in the contact tracing process; and notify Ms. Hess, your school nurse,or principal if you test positive. 

Our COVID-19 Dashboard, posted on our website, accurately reflects COVID cases among our students and staff. In addition, our COVID -19 Communications page includes every school email sent to our parents informing them of positive cases in their schools or activities.

Living during this COVID-19 pandemic is not easy;  we are not in normal times; and the decisions we make on how to navigate this virus have significant consequences. COVID-19 presents challenges and circumstances that have to be carefully and thoughtfully addressed.  If we all work to keep our community healthy and safe, we will get through this together. 

Sincerely,

Dr. Tim Steinhauer