Back-to-School: Contact tracing becomes essential for schools

WATCH: Back-to-School: Contact tracing becomes essential for schools

DESOTO COUNTY, Miss. — Contact tracing has become routine for school districts in Mississippi.

School staff across the Mid-South worked quickly to contain the coronavirus.

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FOX13 visited the largest school district in Mississippi and spoke with the DeSoto County Superintendent, Cory Uselton, about efforts to track the spread of COVID-19.

The clock starts immediately to control an outbreak when students or school staff test positive for the coronavirus.

“We want to make sure parents know exactly what’s out there,” said Uselton.

According to Uselton, the district relies on contact tracing, a method to identify those who come in close contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19, followed by an isolation period.

As of this week, the district reported 34 positive COVID-19 cases and a total of 266 students in quarantine.

In neighboring Tate County, a total of five teachers and nine students tested positive which caused 23 to quarantine.

Uselton believed it was necessary to keep track of everything.

“Parents want to know about COVID-19 cases,” Uselton said. “Parents want to know about quarantine. We want to be transparent as we possibly can about this situation. We realize there are some concerns in the community.”

The district realized contact tracing was critical to prevent the spread of the virus while teachers and students work closely with one another.

On the elementary level, teachers can proactively contact trace by putting together seating charts and assigning students to the same seat.

Contact tracing gets more complicated in middle and high school.

“Normally our elementary schools are going to have less students who are quarantine because they’re with the same group of students all day,” Uselton said. “When you get into our middle schools and high schools with class changes and you are with different students throughout the school day. The number of quarantine does get higher.”

All Mississippi schools K-12 submit weekly reports of positive COVID-19 cases and the number of quarantines among students, teachers and staff.

The data from the school is then summarized by county for the MSDH Aggregate School Covid-19 Report.