Texas schools won't be required to do COVID-19 contact tracing

Texas schools won’t be required to do contact tracing for positive coronavirus tests, according to a new state guidance.

Under the two-page guidance from the Texas Education Agency (TEA) released Thursday, schools have to notify state and local authorities if an individual who has been at school tests positive for COVID-19.

However, contact tracing is not mandatory given data showing “low COVID-19 transmission rates in a classroom setting," the guidance states.

“Given the data from 2020-21 showing very low COVID-19 transmission rates in a classroom setting and data demonstrating lower transmission rates among children than adults, school systems are not required to conduct COVID-19 contact tracing,” the guidance says.

"If school systems are made aware that a student is a close contact, the school system should notify the student’s parents,” the document continues.

The guidance comes as state and local governments grapple with how to safely return schools to in-person learning in the fall amid an increase in infections fueled by the rise of the delta variant.

Dr. Todd Bell, the Amarillo Public Health Authority, spoke on the importance of the community trying to mitigate the spread of the virus.

“Are we going to have an increase after school starts almost certainly, how much of an increase depends on what we as a community do to mitigate the spread of the virus,” said Dr. Bell.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advises that contact tracing along with other measures such as quarantining and isolation are important for keeping schools safe.

Canyon ISD's return to school plan lays out how it will be keeping students and faculty safe by using good hygiene and sanitizing practices with details on everything from arrival and dismissal to how the district is cleaning and disinfecting.

The plan also goes over how CISD will only provide in-person, on-campus learning for all students.

The Austin Independent School District, which served over 75,000 students in the 2020-21 school year, said on Twitter that it will not be following TEA’s guidance on contact tracing.

“Austin ISD will inform parents of a positive case. Austin ISD will conduct contact tracing. Families should keep sick children at home,” the district said.

Aside from contact tracing, TEA says that school districts cannot require mask mandates under an executive order signed by Gov. Greg Abbott (R). However, school systems have to allow individuals who want to wear a mask to do so.

Students who test positive COVID-19 or are actively sick cannot attend school in-person, and parents are advised to not send their child to campus if they are sick. Schools can deliver remote learning to students while they are not at home.

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