Health officials keeping close watch on schools

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By Andreas Yilma, Staff Writer

As some students return back to the classroom amid the COVID-19 pandemic, health and school officials are working more closely together than ever.

“Just like all the businesses opening up, it’s scary,” Chesprocott Health District Director of Health Maura Esposito said. “We’ll get through it. I feel good about it.”

Chesprocott serves Cheshire, Prospect and Wolcott. Esposito said the health district launched an online reporting system to monitor reports of students and school staff who are sick.

Prospect and Beacon Falls make up the Region 16 school district. Naugatuck and Beacon Falls are within the jurisdiction of the Naugatuck Valley Health District. Jessica Stelmaszek, health director of the Naugatuck Valley Health District, did not return a message left seeking comment as of press time.

Esposito said she is working very closely with school nurses within the towns served by Chesprocott. She said she held a virtual meeting with school nurses to go over procedures and protocols, including contact tracing.

“We wanted to make this really simple,” Esposito said. “Not to make it complicated for nurses.”

If a school nurse suspects someone has coronavirus, they need to make evaluations and get as much information as quickly as possible, Esposito said. They need to determine whether the person was maintaining 6 feet distance and wearing a face mask. Nurses are directed to reach out to the health district if a school has suspected cases, she said.

“We’re here to guide them, not only the nurses, but the principals and superintendents,”

Esposito said. “Their job is to teach children, not navigate through a global pandemic.”

Gov. Ned Lamont announced Sept. 3 that the state put together a rapid response testing team to react quickly if there are potential cases at schools and child care facilities across the state.

He said the team will assist with testing as well as how to handle cases, including quarantining.

“We’re going to be working very closely with the local health officials to make sure that we get this right,” Lamont said.

Back-to-school plans for Region 16 and Naugatuck schools state there are isolation rooms in schools for people who have coronavirus symptoms. If there is a confirmed case of COVID-19 in a school, the school will be closed for at least two days and school officials will consult with health officials on the next steps.

Naugatuck’s plan says there is a mandatory 14-day quarantine for anyone with a confirmed case of COVID-19 and a 14-day quarantine for close contacts, including siblings.

Region 16’s plan mandates at least 14 days pass before someone that tests positive for coronavirus can come back to school. A doctor’s note is required before the person can return.

Esposito said her advice for students and staff is to follow the health guidelines and precautions in place.

Elio Gugliotti contributed to this report.