Dear Smithfield Staff and Families,
This 37th edition of the Return to School report includes our weekly report on COVID cases, new CDC guidance, quarantine exemption for vaccinated persons, seasonal allergies, and town data.
A Weekly Report on COVID Cases
Nine (9) new COVID cases were reported in our school community this past week. Six cases were from SHS, three cases were from GMS, and no cases were from the elementary schools. This brings our total number of cases to 304 since the start of the school year.
CDC Cuts School Distancing Guidance to Three Feet
New guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reduces the distance to be maintained between students to three feet, rather than six, as long as everyone continues to wear masks. Six feet of distance is still recommended for staff; between staff and students; in common areas; when students are eating; and during activities that require increased exertion, such as gym class, choir or band practice.
The change in guidance comes after the review of three studies that suggest that physical distancing of at least 3 feet between students can safely be adopted in classrooms where masks are used consistently and other prevention measures are taken. A study conduced in Massachusetts also found no substantial differences in the number of Covid-19 cases among students or staff in schools that implemented a policy of physical distancing of three feet compared with those who maintained a six foot physical distancing guidelines, as long as other health measures, such as universal mask wearing, are employed.
The Rhode Island Department of Health is reviewing the new guidance and will be issuing revisions to the playbook. These revisions are also expected to include a change to bus ridership, enabling schools to transport students in buses at 75% capacity.
Quarantine Exemption for Fully Vaccinated Persons
According to new guidance, vaccinated persons with an exposure to someone with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 are not required to quarantine if they meet all of the following criteria: (1) Are fully vaccinated (>14 days following receipt of the last dose in the vaccine series) and (2) Have remained asymptomatic since the current COVID-19 exposure. This also applies to both international and domestic travel.
Seasonal Allergies or COVID-19?
It’s that time of the year! For some of us, allergy symptoms seem to pop up as soon as the ground thaws. We all need to be cautious. If there’s a new onset of any symptoms, don’t assume it’s allergies; assume it’s COVID. Stay home and get tested. If the test is negative and the symptoms are consistent with allergies, you or your child may return to school as long as you or your child have been fever free for 24 hours and are able to participate comfortably in school activities. After a negative test, if a runny nose or nasal congestion is due to allergies, symptoms might continue for days, weeks, or months. School attendance may continue as long as there is no fever, no new symptoms of COVID-19 or sudden change in symptoms.
The number of cases in Smithfield continues to decrease and was reported to be 79 this past week. This latest figure corresponds to a daily rate of 6.6 new cases per 21,650 residents or 30.4 per 100,000 in a day or a 213 per 100,000 weekly rate. This data is available at https://bit.ly/2PxCgDM.
Judy Paolucci, Superintendent