Preparing for the Future
The district’s back-to-school model involves a layered approach to student and staff safety including mandatory facial coverings, enhanced sanitation, reinforced hygiene, physical distancing, isolation rooms and environmental controls. These steps are necessary to provide a safe school reopening. However, now that these steps are being taken, we are working to implement an aggressive coordinated infrastructure for viral testing of school children and staff and their close contacts to identify those who are infected with SARS-CoV-2 with timely notification. SPS aims to provide all returning school staff access to routine testing with rapid results. Testing will also be made available to SPS students, based on specific criteria (symptoms, contacts or other concerns) or through pool testing once that has been decided.
The city of Somerville and district leaders are working with university partners, the Broad Institute, and Massachusetts General Hospital as well as other entities to secure access to sufficient polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests. We are also exploring various testing strategies to provide a layered approach to mitigating viral spread, including rapid point-of-care antigen tests in order to continue reopening schools safely. Following expert guidance and proper state and federal use authorizations, the city will integrate these tests into the district’s testing strategy.
Community Monitoring and Contact Tracing
Another important component of the district’s layered approach to student and staff safety is the development of a robust system of community monitoring and contact tracing. Under the guidance of Somerville’s Board of Health, the city of Somerville is developing a comprehensive virus surveillance testing plan for all students and staff that will facilitate a safe re-entry to schools. Reflecting Somerville’s citywide approach, several key health parameters are being considered in the development of this testing plan, including but not limited to:
- 14-day average positive case rates per 100,000
- 14-day average of the percentage of daily positive cases
- 14-day average number of daily positive cases
- Testing and contact tracing capacity
- Evolving science and research
- Guidance of expert epidemiologists, virologists, and other health experts
Other factors being considered in the development of an effective community monitoring and contact tracing plan are: establishing regular testing routines to ensure early identification of cases , developing regional partnerships to secure reliability and fast turnaround times on results, as well as establishing clear and consistent contact tracing protocols. Good progress is being made on the development of this critical component of the reopening plan. Further details will be forthcoming once the plan is finalized.
Please see Somerville Public Schools COVID-19 Transmission Prevention Plan for information on Somerville’s comprehensive COVID-19 testing plan for students and staff including baseline testing and routine screening.