Dear MMSD Families and Staff,
The recent surge in COVID-19 infections highlights the importance of building on our success in following risk mitigation strategies in order for us to safely remain open for in-person learning. As we renew our focus on safety protocols, we want to inform you of two important updates to our layered risk mitigation strategy. These updates come after close consultation with our medical advisory team, and after consideration of revised guidelines for schools from Public Health Madison Dane County (PHMDC), Wisconsin Department of Health (DHS), and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The updates include:
1) Contact tracing and positive case notification
With positive COVID-19 case counts at unprecedented levels, our health services staff have needed to prioritize their work in order to stay ahead of an increased demand for services. As a result, health staff is shifting from tracing contacts of positive cases to contacting only individuals who test positive and their high-risk close contacts (household members), assuming there is adequate supply of COVID-19 tests.
As a part of this shift, schools will no longer be issuing emails, texts, or phone calls to close contacts, nor providing school-wide notifications of positive cases. In order to stay informed on the number of positive cases in MMSD, we encourage visiting the district’s public case count dashboard, which is updated weekly. MMSD data shows there is very low spread of COVID-19 in Madison schools due to rigorous and layered mitigation strategies, and MMSD is one of only a few school districts in Wisconsin who, at any point during the pandemic, provided this high level of contact tracing, far exceeding requirements for schools.
2) Isolation and quarantine times
Beginning Tuesday, January 18, keeping with new guidance from CDC, DHS, and PHMDC, our district will implement a change in quarantine or isolation time from 10 days to five days for people who meet determined criteria. Strict mask wearing at school and in the community continues to be required after isolation or quarantine. For more information, we encourage you to visit the MMSD webpage.
During the first week of December 2021, we learned of the first Omicron variant of COVID-19 in the United States. Within only a few weeks of the first recorded case, the unprecedented speed of Omicron spread has allowed it to become the nation's dominant variant, fueling a significant spike of positive cases in Dane County. By now, we have all grown accustomed to COVID-19’s ability to rapidly and unpredictably evolve. Considering the many unknowns about what lies ahead, we encourage you to develop your own family contingency plan, as you would for snow day closures, in the event a school or classroom is required to briefly close due to COVID-19.
Omicron is a more contagious variant than its predecessors. Therefore, we encourage reviewing with your student the importance of wearing a well-fitted mask and following all school safety measures, including staying home when sick or symptomatic. If you are in need of a mask, child and adult size masks are available at all MMSD schools. If eligible, we also encourage students to receive a vaccine or booster shot available at any MMSD vaccination clinic. It is also possible that the CDC will update its guidance on masks in the upcoming days. If this occurs, we will share relevant information with you as soon as possible.
As we approach the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, we are reminded of his famous words about “the fierce urgency of now.” As we continue to face dual pandemics, more than ever before, all of us need to work together by following the science and guidance, and displaying humanity to our staff. Together, we will make it through this surge.
Carlton D. Jenkins, Ph.D.
Madison Metropolitan School District
Gregory P. DeMuri, M.D. F.A.A.P.
Professor, Division of Pediatric Infectious Diseases
Department of Pediatrics
UW-Madison School of Medicine and Public Health
Thomas C. Friedrich, Ph.D.
Professor, Department of Pathobiological Sciences
School of Veterinary Medicine
Ellen R. Wald, MD
Professor and Chair, Department of Pediatrics
Alfred Dorrance Daniels Professor on Diseases of Children
UW-Madison, Medicine and Public Health
Sheryl L. Henderson, M.D., Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Pediatrics
Division of Pediatric Infectious Diseases UW- School of Medicine and Public Health