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'It's very time-consuming' | Who's doing COVID contact tracing in schools?

Fairfax County and Alexandria City Public Schools are hiring contact tracers.

FALLS CHURCH, Va. — As school quarantine lists grow and parent frustrations climb, The Fairfax County Public Schools System wants to make things move a bit smoother. So instead of relying on the health department, the school system will hire its own contact tracers.

So, we wanted to know how are the big school districts in our area are handling contact tracing?

Our sources were Public schools in Fairfax County,  Arlington, Alexandria City, DC and Prince George’s County as well as the Montgomery County Health Department.

Virginia

Fairfax County

The new COVID case managers’ only responsibilities will be to monitor and manage all school data, contact families and report back to the health department. In a statement, a spokesperson told WUSA9 the move is being made, “In an effort to support returning our students back to the classroom as safely and efficiently as possible.”

This is a big deal because WUSA9 learned many jurisdictions have contact tracers doing double, even triple duty.

Arlington

All principals and assistant principals at Arlington’s 40 Public Schools work with the health department to identify contacts. A spokesperson calls the process very time-consuming but, “We are looking to hire a specific team at the division level temporarily to support these efforts.”

Alexandria

A school spokesperson sent WUSA9 a statement explaining, "the Department of Student Services & Equity works administrators and their team, who identify close contacts at the school level. This information is shared with the Alexandria Health Department who contact families and complete the investigation."  

While administrators are doing multiple jobs, ACPS is currently hiring contact tracers whose sole role would be identifying cases and close contacts. 

"We are in the midst of the hiring process to fill these positions as soon as possible," said the spokesperson.  

Washington, D.C.

A spokesperson with DCPS said they have expanded their full-time contact tracing staff who work with school staff to determine close contacts based on seating charts and school staff observations.

Maryland

Montgomery County

The Montgomery County Health and Humans Services Department reported school administrators and teachers serve as contact tracers then follow up with the health department.

Prince George's County

School principals, nurses, secretaries and teachers are the first line too.  A school spokesperson said depending on how long the quarantine list is, the process takes “multiple hours.”

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