By a 5-2 vote during its Sept. 13 meeting, the Lodi School Board approved the district’s following of recommendations put together by a recently formed medical advisory committee regarding COVID-19 mitigation.
That committee, which features four area medical professionals, recommends that face coverings be required when indoors by all students, staff and visitors in all district buildings. It includes athletics and other co-curriculars.
The ruling will go into effect, beginning Monday, Sept. 20, with masks not required in outdoor settings.
The advisory committee met on Sept. 2 and submitted its recommendations to the district five days later. The committee consists of Dr. Andrea Chao (pediatrician at Lodi Clinic), Dr. Masura Furukawa (sports and family medicine at River Valley Clinic), Dr. Nathan Grunewald (Urologic Surgeon and Chief Innovation Officer at Sauk Prairie Healthcare), and Dr. Sabrina Butteris (Professor of Pediatrics and Vice Chair of Clinical Affairs at University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health).
They recommend five main points as written in a memo. Most notably, they recommend that face coverings be worn by all when inside district buildings.
“When we met in August, we said we’d revisit this in September,” District Administrator Vince Breunig said.
The Lodi district began the recent school year by having masks required for all in grades 4K-5, with masks required for sixth-graders until the entire class becomes vaccine eligible. For grades 7-12, masks were recommended for all inside.
Also, they advise all who are eligible should get the COVID-19 vaccine, as it is “the best mitigation strategy.”
The committee also recommends physical distancing to the greatest extent possible, and on-site testing for all symptomatic individuals.
Lastly, they recommend quarantines for all close contacts. Quarantines can be seven days, with the individual returning on day eight after contact provided a negative PCR test (polymerase chain reaction) is confirmed on the fifth, sixth or seventh day following contact. A 10-day quarantine can be completed without a test, with the individual returning on the 11th day following contact, but a 14-day quarantine is still the safest strategy, the committee noted.
Also, while fully vaccinated people can still get infected, the committee said they do not have to quarantine. However, they should get tested 3-5 days after contact, wear a mask for 14 days after, symptom monitor, or isolate for 10 days.
If the close contact is a household member, that student will need to quarantine unless vaccinated. Face coverings are still required on all forms of district transportation.
The advisory committee also noted that medicine doesn’t have all the answers and medical professionals are still learning new things about the virus every day, so the recommendations are based on the info as of early September.
Breunig said the committee will meet again prior to the board’s October meeting.
Board member Kristi McMorris asked Breunig if he felt that what the district currently has in place is working or not.
“It makes me nervous,” Breuing replied. “It’s too early to determine if it’s working or not.” He added that what makes him nervous is seeing what the delta variant has done down south, and that Wisconsin has seen the same trends, but delayed. He was interested to see what the final numbers look like after accounting for the 14 days after the Lodi Fair and Labor Day weekend.
“Our numbers always spike after holidays,” Breunig said.
Board President H. Adam Steinberg made a motion to accept the medical advisory committee’s recommendation and have it implemented on Sept. 20, as it is an acceptable amount of time for schools and families to prepare for the change. Vice President Angie Treinen seconded the motion.
Before the final vote, McMorris asked the board to reconsider the quarantines and keep them as is, to just symptomatic kids. She was not in favor of taking potentially healthy kids out of school for any duration of time.
Board member Bill Wipperfurth asked Steinberg if he would be willing to amend his motion to keep the district’s existing quarantines.
“The whole problem is we are not doctors, and that would be second-guessing the doctors,” Steinberg said. “Sorry, but I’m not willing to second guess these experts.”
Joining Steinberg and Treinen with “yes” votes were Wipperfurth, Terry Haag and Barb Beyer. Julie McKiernan and McMorris voted against it.
District sees seven cases within first two weeks of school
As of the Sept. 13 meeting, there were seven positive cases in the Lodi schools — three at LHS, one each at LMS and LES/OSC, and two at LPS. In addition, there are 37 close contacts at LHS, 25 at LMS, five at LES/OSC and eight at LPS.
Breunig said that all buildings have been working with virtual options should quarantines happen.
Beyer said it was “a little concerning” that the district already had seven cases after less than two weeks of school, including at least one case in each building. She further asked if spacing was an issue at each building, specifically in the cafeterias.
Building principals noted that current mitigation used — like adding a lunch period at LHS, having assigned seats and eating as individual classes in other grades — is working.
“What’s interesting is that we have cases in schools that are currently masking,” McKiernan added.
The transmission level within the buildings is low, and Beyer thinks that those kids are contracting the virus away from school.
Given that masks are not required in grades 7-12, McKiernan asked what kind of compliance the schools have seen. Breunig said that on Sept. 8, during a randomly chosen time, it saw that 37% of students in grades 7-8 wore masks, and that only 7% of LHS students wore masks during second period.
Haag asked what the WIAA guidelines were for sports. Breunig said that the WIAA leaves it up to individual districts during the regular season, but once the playoffs start, all must follow WIAA guidelines. Currently, face covering mitigation for athletics varies among districts. All sports played indoors at Lodi will require athletes to wear masks within the district buildings.
The district does do testing of students, staff and parents who drive students to schools. Testing is available daily from 9 a.m. to noon, with test results back in 18-36 hours.