Though much about the virus remains unknown or speculative, a clear consensus has emerged around the importance of risk mitigation, virus detection, and intervention. This consensus informs the School’s commitment to recognized “behavioral pillars,” such as masks, physical distancing, handwashing, reduced maximum occupant load in interior areas, and the elimination of crowding, lines, and pedestrian cross-traffic. Additionally, in keeping with currently recommended protocols, upon our return to campus we will implement “low-tech, high-frequency” cleaning, daily symptom checks, and health screenings.
- Physical Distancing
- Reduced occupant density in buildings; elimination of crowds, lines, and cross-traffic; use of physical barriers
- Ventilation and Cleaning
- Daily Symptom Checks
- Pre-arrival quarantine periods for day students
- Pre-arrival expectations and procedures for boarding students
- Seasonal flu shots
- Responding to incidents, contact tracing, and community notification
- Supporting people in high risk and extra precaution categories
Evidence continues to support the idea that wearing cloth masks protects others, may offer some protection for wearers, and interrupts community spread.
All employees will be masked appropriately on campus at all times in keeping with CDC guidelines.
All students must obtain at least four cloth masks consistent with the kind described here, and pledge to wear them both indoors and outdoors, with few exceptions.
Note these special considerations for masks:
- If students or employees are alone on or near campus (for example, on Wilson Field with no one nearby, or on a solo run along 17 Mile Drive), those individuals are not required to wear a mask. However s/he should put a mask on if someone approaches and as s/he returns to campus buildings.
- If individuals are eating outside and maintaining a distance of at least 6 feet, they are not required to wear a mask.
Masks should be thoroughly washed with soap and water after each day’s use, and allowed to air dry before being reused.
Students who may be unable to safely wear a mask because of developmental, respiratory, or other conditions should contact the School’s nursing staff. Employees in this category should contact the director of human resources.
Some cloth and disposable masks come with an exhalation valve at the front. The valve makes it easier to breathe out, but it does so by releasing unfiltered air, so it doesn’t protect others if you’re contagious. Because protecting others is the primary reason to wear a mask, please avoid purchasing masks with exhalation valves.
Physical distancing keeps people separated in order to limit the spread of contagion among them. In combination with wearing masks and washing hands, it is a crucial practice to protect health and safety. Generally, the standard—as dictated by the current understanding of transmission dynamics—is to maintain a distance of at least six feet from other people (more is always better); to not spend more than fifteen cumulative minutes any nearer to others, even when masked; and to avoid congregating with others indoors, especially in areas where ventilation is poor.
Though challenges abound, especially indoors, we will implement a variety of strategies to ensure that we can all meet this standard within reasonable limits. Families’ visits to campus (for dropping off and picking up children, for example), will be modified in order to maximize physical distancing (details forthcoming); campus visitors—including parents and guardians—will generally be prohibited from entering School buildings, and will be subjected to health screenings before moving past reception areas. Physical barriers, such as plexiglass shields, will be deployed in areas that do not easily accommodate physical distancing. Congregating in public areas—especially indoors—will be prohibited.
In late November, we signed a lease with the Diocese of Monterey to use part of the former Junipero Serra School campus in Carmel—once we are able to resume in-person instruction—to provide maximum physical distancing for our lower and middle division students. As of this writing, we expect that middle division students and teachers will convene on the Mission Campus upon our return to campus instruction.
All community members will be consistently reminded to wash their hands frequently and well, according to CDC guidelines. Additional outdoor sink stations will be established on all three campuses. Adjoining sinks in public restrooms will be modified in order to prevent transmission owing to simultaneous use. Younger students will be directed to wash their hands at staggered times, and under adult supervision. Hand sanitizer stations will be located at the entry points to many buildings on all three campuses. More information on handwashing will be included as part of our pre-arrival orientation programming.
In early November, the School retained Citadel EHS, a nationally recognized environmental health and safety firm with extensive experience working with schools, to assess indoor air quality and cleaning efficacy throughout the Pebble Beach Campus, Carmel Campus, and Mission Campus, our temporary campus at the former Junipero Serra School in Carmel. All of Citadel’s priority recommendations will be implemented prior to our return.
Our custodial teams on all three campuses are Stevenson employees. They are well trained, dedicated to community health and safety, and will be equipped with touchless electrostatic sprayers that disinfect surfaces effectively and safely. Public spaces such as classrooms, restrooms, showers, kitchen areas, common rooms, indoor athletics facilities, and reception areas will be closely monitored and controlled, and cleaned thoroughly.
We will use web-based tools in order for all community members to complete daily symptom checks. Though such procedures are imperfect, because they rely on parent/guardian or self-reporting, they are still the safest and most practical means by which to identify people who are ill. Such reporting will be maintained as a confidential medical record.
PK-12 day families and boarding students should purchase digital oral thermometers to use in reporting their daily temperature. Our nurses will be equipped to take the temperature of any community member who may become ill or manifest concerning symptoms while on campus.
Any community member who experiences a fever of 100 degrees (or two degrees above their baseline body temperature), or who would likely experience a fever were it not for medication, or who has other symptoms of possible COVID-19 virus infection, should:
- be isolated immediately;
- contact their doctor, or have their parent or guardian contact the family’s pediatrician;
- call or email the School nurse; and
- not come to campus under any circumstances (or not leave their dormitory room, in the case of a boarding student) until granted explicit permission by the School nurse to do so.
The list of symptoms of COVID-19 infection has grown since the start of the pandemic. Symptoms manifest unevenly among adults, and symptoms among adults may sometimes be different from symptoms among children. MIS-C is a severe, but thankfully statistically rare, example of a COVID-19 related syndrome specific to children.
Families of PK-12 day students must be prepared to keep their ill children at home, and retrieve them from campus swiftly should they suddenly fall ill during the school day.
Day students who fall ill during the day with possible COVID-19 symptoms will be quickly isolated and kept separate from others until they can safely depart campus.
The School nurse, in consultation with a student’s pediatrician, will determine how long that student must stay away from campus. Students obligated to be away from campus will attend their classes remotely, to the degree that their condition permits.
Employees who have regular interaction with students will be trained in the basic principles of symptom screening, and will immediately alert both the School nurse and designated administrator to students who appear ill with possible COVID-19 symptoms. The School nurse will respond rapidly to discrete reports, aggregate data collected over time, and advise School leadership regarding daily trends that may impact community health and safety. Screening information will be maintained as a confidential medical record.
Though testing is recognized as an important pillar of the world’s coronavirus pandemic response, it remains a complicated matter.
Virologic testing detects the viral RNA from a respiratory (usually nasal, at present) swab specimen. Because test results only show whether a person is infected at the moment the test is administered, a negative result does not ensure that a person is not about to develop COVID-19. The CDC has stated that serologic blood testing for antibodies to SARS-CoV-2 should not be used to determine a person’s immune status until the presence, durability, and duration of immunity is firmly established. Specifically, the CDC has stated—in agreement with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission—that antibody testing should not be used to make decisions about returning persons to the workplace; or to make decisions about grouping persons residing in or being admitted to congregate settings, such as schools and school dormitories.
Because, according to the CDC, testing in school settings may not offer any reduction in transmission of the virus beyond what would be expected using other preventive measures which are easier to administer, the CDC does not currently recommend universal testing of all community members in schools. Though some infectious disease experts are perplexed by this stance, others concede that universal testing can produce false negatives that may lead to overconfidence and false positives that may lead to unnecessary quarantines of close contacts. Additionally, because the nation is still experiencing significant shortages of testing kits and reagents, many people argue that hospitals, prisons, and nursing homes, which are liable to incur high mortality rates during outbreaks, should have priority access to them.
In October, the CDC provided PK-12 schools with updated guidance regarding school-based point of care testing protocols. We are formulating our testing strategy in relation to this guidance, and in further consultation with outside experts, and will share that information as soon as we can. We recognize that there is still an active debate among experts regarding the various types of tests and their efficacy, and we also assume that the near-term future will see a continuing expansion of thought and practice in this area.
One section of the CDC’s current guidance merits replication here:
If a school is implementing a testing strategy, testing should be offered on a voluntary basis. It is unethical and illegal to test someone who does not want to be tested, including students whose parents or guardians do not want them to be tested. It is not recommended to retest individuals who have tested positive and do not have symptoms for COVID-19 for up to 3 months from their last positive test. Data currently suggest that some individuals test persistently positive due to residual virus material but are unlikely to be infectious. Parents or guardians may request documentation from their health care provider to indicate the date and type of the student’s most recent COVID-19 test.
At present, we do plan to require some form of pre-arrival “gateway testing” for all students. More information on that aspect of our plan will be shared as soon as it is available.
Should we determine that recurring testing of asymptomatic people is advisable, such that this strategy must be applied to those in our community who are regularly on campus this spring, we will share that information as soon as it is available.
Given our proximity to local test sites and the Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula—an excellent nonprofit healthcare provider (less than two miles from the Carmel Campus, and about 3.5 miles from the Pebble Beach Campus) with 258 licensed hospital beds, 28 skilled-nursing beds, and scalable capacity to 50 intensive care unit beds—we currently plan to employ an aggressive low threshold for directing symptomatic people to receive off-site testing. Specifically, community members who report concerning symptoms by way of the daily symptom check, or who manifest concerning symptoms during the day, may be required by the School nurse to engage in viral testing before being permitted to return to campus.
While there is no way for the School to effectively enforce a quarantine period for day students who intend to return for campus instruction, they will be required to observe many of the same guidelines to which our boarding students will adhere during their respective quarantine periods. All day students intending to return for campus instruction should, for example, remain largely at home and socialize minimally in the 14 days prior to their return to campus. Additionally, day students will likely be required to obtain a viral PCR test within 3-5 days prior to their return to campus and upload these results to Magnus.
Further information regarding pre-arrival expectations and procedures for day students will be shared in January.
The School’s immunization and communicable illness policy requires students and employees to receive a seasonal flu shot. In the face of a global pandemic caused by a novel coronavirus, seasonal flu shots play an important role by reducing the incidence of influenza, which results in symptoms similar to COVID-19.
The effectiveness of these vaccines may vary from season to season. The protection they provide depends on the age and health of the person receiving the vaccine, and the degree of match between the viruses used to produce the vaccine and the viruses in circulation. Despite variations in these vaccines’ effectiveness, every year they prevent millions of influenza illnesses, tens of thousands of hospitalizations, and thousands of deaths.
Once students return to campus, School leadership will convene at the beginning and end of each day in a group that includes the School nurses, such that community health is being carefully monitored by way of an incident command model.
If a community member develops COVID-19 symptoms, the School will follow a triage response plan that will be distributed to all students, students’ families, and employees prior to the start of campus instruction.
The Monterey County Health Department (MCHD) is charged to conduct contact tracing using classroom rosters and other data obtained from the School. However, we expect that the School will need to shoulder the burden of contact tracing, and we have taken steps to ensure that we can do so effectively. These steps include: supplementary training in contact tracing provided for our nursing staff by Johns Hopkins School of Public Health, and an institutional subscription to TRACE, a web-based app that all students and employees with smartphones who return to campus will be obligated to load in order to support the School’s contact tracing efforts in the event of an outbreak.
The MCHD is also charged to direct the School’s responses to individual or multiple positive cases. Though the guidelines for determining when a COVID-19 infected person is able to return to school or work continue to evolve, at present students or employees who test positive, or who are deemed a close contact with someone who tests positive, should expect to be required to quarantine for 14 days.
The CDC currently defines close contact as:
Someone who was within 6 feet of an infected person for a cumulative total of 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period* starting from 2 days before illness onset (or, for asymptomatic patients, 2 days prior to test specimen collection) until the time the patient is isolated.
*Individual exposures added together over a 24-hour period (e.g., three 5-minute exposures for a total of 15 minutes). Data are limited, making it difficult to precisely define “close contact;” however, 15 cumulative minutes of exposure at a distance of 6 feet or less can be used as an operational definition for contact investigation. Factors to consider when defining close contact include proximity (closer distance likely increases exposure risk), the duration of exposure (longer exposure time likely increases exposure risk), whether the infected individual has symptoms (the period around onset of symptoms is associated with the highest levels of viral shedding), if the infected person was likely to generate respiratory aerosols (e.g., was coughing, singing, shouting), and other environmental factors (crowding, adequacy of ventilation, whether exposure was indoors or outdoors). Because the general public has not received training on proper selection and use of respiratory PPE, such as an N95, the determination of close contact should generally be made irrespective of whether the contact was wearing respiratory PPE. At this time, differential determination of close contact for those using fabric face coverings is not recommended.
All community members will be notified of confirmed positive cases, though privacy rules preclude the naming of sick people. The appropriate adults will be notified in order to provide boarding students with support and to ensure a review of environmental safety precautions in the dormitory.
Any employees who fall within the CDC’s categories of high risk and/or needing extra precaution and employees who live with a person in one of those categories will be permitted to work remotely, if doing so is possible given their jobs. Accommodations for employees in other categories are likely to be quite limited.
We will do what we can to ensure that students who return for campus instruction are enrolled in the fewest possible number of classes taught by faculty members receiving such accommodations.
Students who are at increased risks from COVID-19 owing to their underlying medical conditions should consult with the School nurse, in conjunction with their parents or guardians, to ensure that they receive appropriate accommodations with due regard for their privacy, which may in fact require them to begin the semester at home, depending on their health. As always, our nurses will collaborate with families and pediatricians to identify and develop accommodations for students with unique needs.