Orange County school district concerned over quarantine compliance
RANDOLPH, Vt. (WCAX) - A big key to stopping the spread of COVID is for people to isolate when they are sick and quarantine if exposed to the virus. But not everyone is complying.
A cluster of cases in the Orange Southwest School District is not the only thing that has school officials concerned. It’s also the reaction that they are getting from some members of this community when it comes to contact tracing. “It was a bit of a shock,” said Layne Millington, the district’s superintendent.
The parking lots at schools throughout this district will see a lot less traffic during the next few weeks. Several cases of COVID-19 canceled in-person learning. And due to increasing cases statewide, a lot of the contact tracing is being done at the local level.
He estimates about a third of the families who were called, brushed off concerns about possible exposure or exposing others. “Didn’t care, is probably a good expression for a lot of them,” Millington said. “And then we had at least one family that had positive cases that said they were going to be non-compliant with the quarantine.”
“That is disheartening,” said Mandy Garvin, who has a student at the high school who is high-risk. “I think if you take interest in your community and your families, that you are doing your part to protect them.”
“This is fair warning to those of you who are planning to have gatherings where you’re having people from outside your homes for Thanksgiving,” said Governor Phil Scott. “If you don’t want your kids to have to transition to remote learning and quarantine for a seven day period, maybe you ought to make other plans.”
Governor Scott says the state can impose penalties for people unwilling to comply with contact tracing requirements, but there are currently no penalties in place.
“We don’t want to use our limited resources in public safety to go after people,” Scott said. “We’re asking people to tell the truth to protect others. I don’t think it’s tattling on anyone, and I am not sure it’s all about the kids. The parents play a role in this as well.”
But when all Vermont students return to school after the break, along with now standard temperature checks, they will also be asked if they interacted with anyone outside their immediate family. Anyone who says yes will be required to quarantine.
Some people we talked with called this an invasion of privacy, others call it a necessity.
“I think it’s a smart mandate considering COVID right now. Obviously it sucks because families want to gather, and I want to see my family, but right now with the outbreak it’s probably a smart thing to do,” said John Stewart, a UVM student.
“Listening to Dr. Levine on the radio, we know they’re basing it on scientific evidence,” said Megan Epler-Wood of Burlington.
“And the kids can transmit it to the older people and then they have the risk of dying,” said Randy Riggins of South Burlington.
Governor Scott says most of the new coronavirus cases across the state are a result of social gatherings.
“You never know if you’re going to be the domino that leads to a nursing home outbreak or that pushed an entire school to remote learning,” said Scott.
The state predicts a third of Vermonters will break the rules.
To flip it to the positive, school officials say about two-thirds of the community is doing the right thing, which they say will go a long way in helping to prevent the spread and ultimately getting kids back in the classroom.
“We do get a lot of grief because we have switched over to remote session, but I think that people have to realize that the schools are a casualty in this a lot,” Millington said.
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