March 4, 2022
Dear Smithfield Staff and Families,
This 25th edition of the Back to School report includes our weekly report on COVID cases, masks, personal responsibility, contact tracing, other mitigation strategies, and town data.
A Weekly Report on COVID Cases
Since our last report on February 18th, we have had an additional 17 confirmed COVID cases. This brings our total since our school year began to 889 cases. There were 2 cases identified at SHS, 6 cases identified at Gallagher, 7 cases at Pleasant View Elementary, 1 case at LaPerche Elementary and 0 cases at Old County Road Elementary. There was also one case at our School Administration Building. This continues to be a dramatic decrease from the prior weeks.
Masks Become Optional
The statewide mask requirement for public K-12 schools [Executive Order 21-87] is slated to end after 5 p.m. on March 4, 2022. The federal order requiring masking on public transportation, including school buses, expires on March 18, 2022 but may be extended by the federal government. In the absence of a mandate, the District’s policy is to allow parents to make the decision regarding whether or not their child should wear a mask. Therefore, all Smithfield students should wear a mask on school buses but may remove their masks while in school buildings.
As we make the shift from mandates, we shift toward personal responsibility. Personal responsibility means that people should follow public health guidance and:
• Stay home if they have any symptoms of COVID-19, get tested, and consult a healthcare provider;
• Notify their close contacts if they test positive for COVID-19; and
• Determine when they should wear a well-fitting mask around others.
National experts and public health organizations agree that we should transition away from universal contact tracing and implement a targeted approach based on updated data and understanding of COVID-19. Therefore, RIDOH no longer recommends that schools conduct contact tracing. RIDOH will continue to prioritize outbreak detection and response in pre K-12 school settings. RIDOH recommends that schools:
Limit contact tracing efforts in schools, and
Consider everyone in the same classroom/group with someone who tests positive for COVID-19 to be exposed; and
Notify students, families/guardians of the exposure; and
Notify RIDOH when there are outbreaks.
Other Mitigation Strategies
Schools have been relatively safe places over the course of the pandemic, due to the layering of a number of mitigation strategies. As masks become optional, we are hoping to keep the number of cases in our schools low by continuing to advocate for other practices, such as:
Promoting vaccination (Vaccination remains the most powerful strategy to keep children and families healthy and students learning and involved in extracurricular activities in person. Find more information at C19vaccineRI.org.)
Promoting hand hygiene and respiratory etiquette
Recommending continued use of masks, especially for those that are not up to date with their vaccines or are immunocompromised
Screening for symptoms and staying home when sick
Continue to offer screening testing
Voluntary COVID Testing
We are continuing to offer voluntary COVID testing to students and staff with consent. Moving forward, each person who participates in this testing will be entered into a drawing for a $25 Amazon gift card.
The number of weekly new cases in Smithfield has dropped each week since the start of the new year. The weekly number for the week ending February 26th fell to 24 cases, from 40 the week prior. The number of cases in the state has also decreased to 1684 cases for that same week. The town rate corresponds to a weekly rate of 181 new cases per 100,000 residents. This rate is still above the threshold at which the CDC classifies a high rate of transmission (greater than 100 cases/100,000 residents) but at this rate of decline, we are anticipating a return to more normal conditions. This data is available at https://bit.ly/2PxCgDM.
Judy Paolucci, Superintendent