Local parent concerned about quarantine process after COVID-19 case in son’s school

Updated: Oct. 14, 2020 at 5:39 AM EDT
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HORRY COUNTY, S.C. (WMBF) - An Horry County parent says he is concerned after receiving an email from the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control stating a person may have been contagious with COVID-19 while inside his child’s classroom.

David Warner has two sons that attend Carolina Forest Elementary School where that positive case was identified by SCDHEC.

On Monday night, Warner says he received an automated voice message from school leaders and an email that contained a letter from SCDHEC, stating an individual inside Carolina Forest Elementary tested positive for COVID-19.

The letter also stated contact tracing, which helps to identify all people possibly exposed to the virus, was completed at the school and anyone believed to have been in close contact with the infected person has been notified.

The email said it was determined Warner’s son had not been in close contact with the infected person and is not required to stay home. Warner says he was told the last day his son was inside of the classroom with the person infected was in the room space last Tuesday.

“If they were in the same classroom, what makes [a student] not susceptible to getting the coronavirus from that person,” Warner said. “To me, it doesn’t make a lot of sense. There' so much stuff to unpack here, to see what you’re going to do to keep your child safe.”

Warner wishes more information about the infected person would be provided to families, both in email and phone call formats.

“A very bland email that says basically your child’s in a classroom with this going on doesn’t seem adequate enough to me,” Warner said.

Based on SCDHEC’s procedures, if a student or staff member has been in close contact with the person infected with the virus, the district will implement the scenario one policy, which requires a person to a state-mandated quarantine.

However, if a student shared a classroom with the infected person and did not meet the definition of “close contact,” it would be considered the scenario two policy. Based on SCDHEC’s policy, this doesn’t require the student to quarantine.

And that has some parents like Warner feeling a bit troubled.

“I think that this just proves there’s obviously still a problem [with COVID cases] in Horry County," Warner said. “And we’re still seeing people in the schools coming down with this illness. It’s concerning because we don’t know [much], and we have to put the trust and care of our children in the school districts hands and hope they are doing the right thing.”

Horry County parent Caroline Williams has been debating on whether to switch her daughter from the virtual program to the traditional learning program in January, stating the virtual program is not a good fit for her daughter.

But Williams says she’s concerned about enrolling her daughter in face-to-face instruction and having to risk her daughter possibly being exposed to the virus on the school grounds.

“Kids are not suppose to be getting sick, staff members aren’t suppose to be getting sick,” Williams said. “I don’t want to risk my child.”

Warner also wants to know why his family received an automated call instead of receiving a direct call from school leaders about the COVID-19 case inside the classroom.

The school district said all close contacts that must quarantine receive a personal call from the school, with additional information about distance learning during their 14-day quarantine. The district says all non-close contact students where quarantine is not necessary will receive a Parentlink phone message. In both cases, the parents will also receive a letter from SCDHEC about the positive COVID-19 case.

Horry County Schools released the following statement, detailing the steps taken to determine when a student should quarantine:

“Each school is assigned a DHEC nurse who assists in the determination of isolation and quarantine for students and staff. All quarantine recommendations are based on the following: were individuals less than 6ft. apart for longer than 15 minutes. Those individuals are considered a close contact of the case. All individuals deemed to have been in close contact with a person who has tested positive will receive a letter from DHEC regarding their quarantine requirements. If a student or staff member has been deemed a non-close contact with a person who has tested positive, is NOT required to stay home per DHEC. They will also receive a letter from SCDHEC simply notifying them of the identification of a positive case in their child’s classroom. The DHEC letter provides recommendations for parents so they may take the proper actions to protect their family and others.”

The school district says ‘it will maintain the privacy rights of our parents, students, and staff impacted by COVID-19 or any other health-related conditions.’

Although the district has not provided any specifics about the COVID-19 case at Carolina Forest Elementary School, there is information for tracking the virus cases for each school on the district’s COVID-19 Case Dashboard.

For Carolina Forest Elementary School, the district posted one active staff member COVID-19 case at the school and zero active student cases.

Across the district, there are 21 active student cases and 20 active staff cases in the past seven days.

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