AUSTIN, Texas - Austin ISD said it is doing all it can to keep COVID-19 at bay in schools, including protocols like plastic dividers, rapid testing on site, a mask mandate, and disinfecting to name a few.
But some transmission has been hard to curb. According to the district's latest numbers, they have 141 confirmed cases, but that means 1037 students and employees have been exposed since Aug. 16, the day before the first day of school.
"Once we know there is a positive lab tested case, that gets notified to our health services department and then we start working on contact tracing," said communications specialist Eduardo Villa.
If students and staff are vaccinated while exposed and not showing symptoms, they won't need to quarantine, others will. The numbers highlight a concerning trend that is beginning early in the school year. Austin's health authority and medical director addressed the council and commissioners on the topic Tuesday morning.
"With the opening of schools at this point we are seeing a surge in cases. As of the last two weeks we've had increased cases, up to 414 additional cases," said Austin/Travis County Health Authority Dr. Desmar Walkes.
Some are concerned that these numbers could put kids back at home.
"I have a seventh grader who is at a school that is up to their fifth case this week, rolling into the second week. I’m concerned we will find ourselves in a position where our scholars are encouraged to resume virtual learning," said Councilmember Natasha Harper-Madison (District 1).
"The school numbers are very troubling and the decisions about changing the processes at school will be made by the independent school districts," said Walkes.
As for now, some district officials are playing the game of "wait and see" to determine what happens next.
Meanwhile, the district has provided a $250 incentive for employees to get vaccinated. They also announced a COVID-19 Sick Leave Co-op. Eligible employees who contribute eight hours of their own leave to the program will become eligible for up to five "COVID Leave" days with full pay if needed.
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