What will happen if there is a case of COVID-19 in our school
If our school is connected to a confirmed or probable case of COVID-19 the principal will be contacted by the Ministry of Education regional office (usually the Director of Education) or local public health unit to agree on a plan.
Stringent self-isolation is needed for those who display relevant symptoms of COVID-19, test positive for COVID-19, or have been in close contact with someone who tests positive for COVID-19.
As noted recently by Dr Caroline McElnay, Director of Public Health:
Our experience in New Zealand and overseas with COVID-19 shows that it does not affect children and teens in the same way it does adults. Children and teens don't become as unwell if they do get infected, and they don't tend to pass the virus on so much as adults when in a classroom setting.
Compared to other places, schools and early learning services are not environments where we have seen significant spread of COVID-19. Household members and work colleagues who are in close contact with people with COVID-19, are the most common sources of transmission.
Inevitably, however, when there are cases in the community, they will also appear in schools and early learning services.
Notification through public health
When there is a confirmed case in the community, public health officials will undertake a case investigation and work closely with the confirmed case to identify any close contacts, including any connection to a school or early learning service.
Health officials will then contact either the school's regional Director of Education or the school directly to provide direction on contact tracing and other relevant information.
The Ministry of Education will support the school with communications to our community based on the public health advice.
As a result of the case investigation, public health may be able to provide the following information:
infectious period or information that the person was not infectious when at school
any known activities onsite during that infectious period
isolation end date and testing advice for contacts.
In addition to the case investigation by Health, we will be able to identify those in our school who may also be considered contacts, through our:
learning schedule (which staff were onsite with which classes, groups, bubbles)
sports, cultural and other extra-curricular group lists
Notifications from staff, students, parents or caregivers
What is often happening, however, is the staff member, parent or caregiver will first notify the principal or service manager that they or their child are a confirmed case.
In such instances, the principal will contact the school's regional Director of Education, who will provide advice on some next steps. The regional Director of Education's team will connect with public health services to seek advice on next steps for our school and these will be communicated to our school community.
Closing our school may not be required and will only occur in consultation with direction from Health or in discussion with the Director of Education.
Case investigation can take some time to ensure the risk assessment undertaken by public health is based on good information.
If the case investigation is therefore still underway, as an interim measure to mitigate risk and if advised by the Director of Education to do so, the following actions may be taken:
the confirmed case and their household will need to already be self-isolating
as a precaution, those who have been in the same classroom/bubble/room as the confirmed case for the previous 48 hours will be asked to stay away, until public health advice has been received
there is no testing requirement at this time for those individuals unless they are feeling unwell and are advised by Healthline or their GP to get tested
the school will be provided with specific guidance based on the public health risk assessment as soon as possible. This is likely to require any close contacts to self-isolate and get tested
undertaking of a clean prior to the other students, children and staff returning on site.