HUNTSVILLE, Ala. – The Alabama Department of Public Health is changing its COVID-19 toolkit for schools, that’s the plan districts use to make decisions to keep students, teachers and staff safe during the pandemic.
ADPH has tweaked the plan before, but the most recent amendments could have an impact on keeping COVID-19 out of schools.
In the initial statewide schools toolkit everyone who was in close contact with a symptomatic teacher or student was sent home to quarantine for two weeks.
Thursday, ADPH announced they’d be changing the rules a bit.
Symptomatic individuals will continue to be sent home to isolate themselves until they get COVID-19 test results.
But those who they’ve been in close contact will not be required to quarantine unless the symptomatic individual loses their sense of taste or smell.
ADPH said the loss of those two senses is a critical symptom of COVID-19, or almost always signifies the presence of the virus in the body.
“That’s a bit concerning,” said Latondia Ragland.
“I don’t think they should do it that way. I think they should continue doing it the way they’re doing it,” explained Leslie Knight. “Honestly I feel like we shouldn’t even have school open. I feel like school shouldn’t be open until at least January. We would’ve at least gotten halfway through the flu season.”
Both Ragland and Knight are parents of school age children, they’re also contracted school employees.
“I work at the school, and I have to come home to my own children,” said Ragland.
“I think they do need to play it more safe than sorry. Because everyone’s body is different, so they’re not going to have the same symptoms,” Knight added.
Knight said she tries her best to keep her distance when she goes into schools, but the new change will make it harder to tell who may have been exposed, at least early on.
She said she’s afraid that could be the difference between life or death for her.
“I already have underlying health conditions,” Knight explained. “I definitely don’t want it get it because I feel if I get it I wont make it.”
Ragland said the state should rethink the change because there are other seasonal sicknesses at play as well. She would feel safer if the old standard remained.
“We do have the flu season, we do have sinuses and issues like that.” she explained. “But to be on the safe side, I do feel like it would be best if somebody is feeling sick that they send everybody home.”
ADPH said they don’t see this as a major change. The department said if a symptomatic person happens to test positive, those who may have been allowed to stay in school will be notified and subsequently sent home to quarantine.
ADPH said it continues to work with the state board of education in designing a dashboard for COVID-19 in Alabama schools so that there’s a clear, more universal database of cases.
There’s no launch date as of yet.
But in the meantime, ADPH said the school quarantine rules will be changed effective October 13.