Supt. Austin: New quarantine, close contact guidance announced

April 28, 2021 by Carol Britton Meyer

As of April 26, all Hingham Public Schools students are attending school five days per week.

While data may be incomplete due to the April vacation break, Supt. of Schools Paul Austin reported at last night's School Committee meeting that two HPS staff from among 1,903 who were tested recently were asymptomatic for COVID-19 through the weekly staff testing program and one student from more than 326 pools through the HPS pool testing program. "While this is very good news, we continue to encourage everyone to participate in the testing we offer," he said.

According to Austin, 188 students were pool tested last Friday at East School, available to students and staff who had already returned from their vacation travels and also to anyone else who wished to be tested.

The mPathy COVID-19 testing site at 308 Cushing St. was open regular hours last week for anyone wishing to be tested and also on Sunday, April 25, exclusively for HPS students and staff.

The number of reported cases prior to the break were "slightly elevated and should serve as a reminder that we all need to remain vigilant and observe the protocols that have been put in place that keep us all safe," according to Austin. He noted that the state vaccine rollout program is now open to any individuals age 16 and over.

Austin also reported that effective April 21, new state quarantine and close contacts guidance went into effect.

Anyone who is exposed to a COVID 19-positive individual in the classroom or on the bus while both individuals are masked are not expected to quarantine unless they were within three feet of the COVID 19-positive individual for a total of 15 minutes during a 24-hour period.

"This does not apply if someone is identified as a close contact outside of the classroom or bus (e.g., sports, extra-curricular activities, lunch, etc.) or if masks are not worn by both persons at the time of the exposure," Austin explained. "All other close contacts must follow the standard protocols for when a close contact may return to school."

As a reminder, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health defines close contact as being within six feet of an individual or individuals who tested positive for a total of 15 minutes during a 24-hour period.

"Multiple brief or transitory interactions (less than a minute) throughout the day are unlikely to result in 15 minutes of cumulative contact and do not meet the definition of close contact," Austin explained. "Neither does being in the same room as an individual if you are consistently separated by six feet of distance."

Close contact can occur while being with, caring for, living with, visiting, or sharing a healthcare waiting area or room with an individual or individuals who tested positive or having direct physical contact with the person (e.g. hugging or kissing); sharing eating or drinking utensils; or having direct contact with infectious secretions of a COVID-19 case (e.g., being coughed on) while not wearing recommended personal protective equipment.

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