County Issues New Coronavirus Guidelines for Schools

NORRISTOWN PA – New Montgomery County guidelines to determine whether and when students must wear masks or be tested for COVID-19 while attending schools were issued Monday (July 26, 2021) by its Office of Public Health. The list sets standards for a four-level range of coronavirus transmission severity, and how the county expects districts will deal with each level.

Things can change quickly with the coronavirus, as its latest Delta variant has demonstrated with alarming ferocity, according to the federal Centers of Disease Control. For that reason the county recommendations – developed in collaboration with its school superintendents – cover a spectrum of conditions that, at their worst, include universal masking of all students.

The recommendations “are intended to give school boards, superintendents, and parents guidance so they can make the best decisions for their communities and their families,” county Board of Commissioners Chair Dr. Valerie A. Arkoosh said. The list “supports in-person education, is based on the most current and accurate data available, and stresses the importance of vaccination for those who are eligible, along with a multi-layered prevention strategy,” she added.

The county’s different levels of disease transmission rates include:

  • Low, in which the number of cases per 100,000 residents in any school district is 9 or fewer, and reflects a positivity rate of less than 5 percent;
  • Moderate, between 10 and 49 cases, or 5-to-7 percent positivity;
  • Substantial, between 50 and 99 cases, or 8-to-9.9 percent positivity; and
  • High, with 100 or more cases, or a 10-percent or higher positivity rate.

The levels, and the guidelines to cope with any of them, appear in the chart below:

County Issues New Coronavirus Guidelines for Schools

The recommendations also include prevention strategies on promotion of the COVID-19 vaccine, recommending staff and students stay home when sick, and guidance on physical distancing. Additionally they provide updates on ventilation, hand-washing and respiratory etiquette, cleaning and disinfection, contact tracing, and isolation and quarantine.

“We have reviewed all of the current guidance from all relevant public health authorities to make these new recommendations, and will continue to follow the data,” public health office Medical Director Dr. Richard Lorraine noted. A copy of the guidelines and full details of the recommendations is available for download here.

Local schools’ incidents and positivity

As of July 15 (Thursday), the most recent statistics available show incidence rates and 14-day positivity percentages for these school districts within the county:

  • Pottsgrove, 4.63 incidence rate, 0.76 percent positivity;
  • Pottstown, 13.22 incidence rate, 0.66 percent positivity;
  • Spring-Ford Area, 12.70 incidence rate, 1.54 percent positivity;
  • Perkiomen Valley, 15.32 incidence rate, 1.96 percent positivity;
  • Upper Perkiomen Valley, 19.39 incidence rate, 1.88, 1.61 percent positivity; and
  • Boyertown, 11.23 incidence rate, 1.61 percent positivity.

Positivity rates in all six districts fall within the “low” standard of less than 5 percent. The number of incidents per 100,000 population, however, is “low” and within 9 or fewer cases only in Pottsgrove. County guidelines deem incident rates in the other five as “moderate.”

Photo by Engin Akyurt via Unsplash, used under license