The following response is submitted by:
Dana Loomis, Plumas County Public Health Agency
Terry Oestreich, Plumas County Office of Education
Dee Kelly asked whether there is a plan to contain an outbreak of Covid-19 in Plumas County schools. We’re glad she asked; there is a plan, and it’s working!
Disease outbreaks in schools are always a high priority because infections can be transmitted rapidly among students and staff, and—as any parent knows—children can bring infections home to their families, sometimes with serious consequences. For this reason, the Plumas County Office of Education and the Plumas County Public Health Agency have been working together since the beginning of the school year to keep schools open and safe. Students are asked to screen at home before school for possible symptoms of Covid-19 and they and staff wear masks indoors as required by the State of California. Students participating in sports, which are a common source of infection, are also tested for Covid regularly before play.
When routine testing of student athletes in early October identified a significant number of Covid cases at Quincy Junior-Senior High School, we moved quickly to identify their contacts and any other potential cases. Individuals who tested positive for Covid were instructed to isolate at home and their contacts were told to quarantine; both are standard infection-control practices. Educational materials were provided to students and parents to ensure they had clear, understandable instructions about those requirements. Out of an abundance of caution, all extracurricular activities, including athletics, have been cancelled since Tuesday, October 5th.
We also engaged an Outbreak Response Team from the California Department of Public Health, which quickly deployed to Quincy and tested 169 additional students who hadn’t been tested before; less than 2 percent of those tests were positive. Another round of routine testing this week also found only 2 percent positive. These are encouraging results that suggest that the measures we have taken are working to contain the outbreak. Through it all the schools have stayed open. And to ensure that we are prepared to follow up any further outbreaks, contact tracers from the state health department will be temporarily helping our local team.
In the long run, the best way to prevent future outbreaks is to accelerate vaccinating students and staff. The Public Health Agency will be offering Covid and flu vaccinations in schools the first week of November. This will be an opportunity for students to be vaccinated for Covid in advance of planned state vaccination requirements that are expected to come into effect for the next school year.