COVID-19 protocols remain in place with no significant changes for Marble Falls and Burnet students and staff heading back to school after a two-week holiday break. However, the two school districts are expecting word from the Texas Education Agency the week of Jan. 3 about whether schools can shorten the isolation period from 10 days to five once symptoms are gone.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently changed its recommendations to five days of isolation followed by five days of wearing a face covering after symptoms are gone.
Since early December, Omicron, the latest variant of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, has taken hold in the United States and Texas. According to the Texas Department of State Health Services’ most recent data, the Omicron variant accounts for more than 90 percent of COVID-19 cases in the state.
The variant was virtually undetected in the U.S. as of Nov. 27, but by mid-December, it was responsible for more than 95 percent of the nation’s COVID-19 cases, according to CDC data. Health officials have described the Omicron variant as “highly transmissible.”
Local school officials are aware of Omicron’s potential to spread as students return to school. Marble Falls students were back in class Tuesday, Jan. 4. Burnet students reported to campuses Wednesday, Jan. 5.
“We recognize that there will continue to be challenges when it comes to COVID, and we are prepared to meet them head-on,” said Keith McBurnett, superintendent of the Burnet Consolidated Independent School District.
BCISD is reviewing recent CDC changes in the recommended isolation period for people who test positive for COVID-19. Under current DSHS rules for Texas schools, COVID-19-positive students must isolate for at least 10 days after the onset of symptoms or a positive test. After 10 days, they can return if symptoms are gone and they are fever free.
According to McBurnett, “fever free” is defined as having a temperature of under 100 degrees for 24 hours without using any fever-reducing medication.
“The administration is reviewing this guidance and is hoping to receive updated guidance from DSHS and (the Texas Education Agency) this week regarding Texas schools,” McBurnett said. “This shortened period would be beneficial by allowing staff to return to work, which would help keep schools open during an increase in case counts.”
He urged parents not to send their children to school if they are showing any COVID-19 symptoms or running a fever.
The biggest challenge is determining whether a person has COVID-19 or another illness, such as the flu or seasonal allergies. COVID-19 tests are hard to come by as the demand has jumped in recent weeks.
BCISD still offers rapid testing for its staff.
Marble Falls ISD offers testing for students from 8:30-10:30 a.m. Monday-Friday at the former transportation building located north of the MFISD Central Administration building, 1800 Colt Circle. Officials ask that students or their parents complete an online testing form. The testing is only available to MFISD students.
MFISD Superintendent Dr. Chris Allen said if a parent has concerns about their child’s health regarding COVID-19, they should check with their healthcare provider.
Both districts also monitor and report positive COVID-19 cases within their districts. The BCISD COVID-19 information page provides those numbers as well as updates on the district’s pandemic efforts. MFISD numbers can be found on its COVID-19 dashboard.