Texas coronavirus: Students should get tested often, APH says

Austin Public Health’s Dr. Mark Escott said he is worried about extracurriculars during the school

Austin Public Health’s Dr. Mark Escott said he is worried about extracurriculars during the school year.

AUSTIN, Texas — Although Austin’s top doctor said school buildings should be safe to go to back, Austin Public Health’s Dr. Mark Escott said he’s concerned about kids enrolled in extracurricular activities. 

“We have more tests available than we have people wanting to get tested, which is a good problem to have,” said Escott. “When I met with the superintendents, and we meet weekly, I’ve made the recommendation that testing, proactive testing really should be focused on those students where we know the risk is higher. In particular, the clusters that we’ve seen at schools that have reopened have been related to extracurricular activities.” 

Austin ISD athletics has their own guidelines for games and practices, like limiting fans and daily screenings for student athletes, but after school clubs have to stay online.

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You can read the AISD student athletes’ plan here.

“We’ve seen clusters in band, in football, in cheerleading and we’ve also seen clusters associated with social activities,” said Escott.

AISD plans to get rid of in-person assemblies for now and everything will be online, but if your kid is in sports, Escott suggests to get tested regularly.

“My advice to parents is, if your child is involved in these activities, if they’ve gone to an event, a party, a gathering of something where masking and social distancing were not practiced, then proactive testing, meaning asymptomatic testing, is a good idea in those circumstances,” said Escott.

Escott said he’s working with school districts and added it’s important to work with health developments when it comes to the coronavirus. 

“We have evidence now that transmission from younger children to adults is low. Again, we have to pay close attention to evidence to make sure that doesn’t change,” said Escott.

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You can find AISD’s on-and-off-campus activities and school-wide events guidelines here on page 22.

According to the plan, the following are the guidelines for on-campus activities:

  • No in-person assemblies or gatherings for students or staff until further notice.
  • Meet the teacher, back-to-school night, and parent/guardians conferences will be held remotely.
  • Performances will be held remotely.
  • After-school clubs and activities may continue via remote platforms 22 Version 4 09/24/2020.
  • PTA events and CAC meetings will be held remotely.
  • Instructional planning and social-emotional support meetings with parents/guardians will be held remotely when access to technology allows for meaningful participation by all parties involved; special consideration regarding any barriers to parents’/guardians’ meaningful participation in the collaboration process will be made by the campus principal.

According to the plan, the following are the guidelines for off-campus activities:

  • Student participation in academic contests (robotics, Math Pentathlon, STEM events, science fair) will only be attended if the organizing entity provides clear guidance regarding health and safety measures aligned with district guidance.
  • Virtual field trips are recommended.
  • In-person, off-campus field trips that require transportation are not allowed until further notice. In-person, off-campus walking field trips to adjacent nature spaces are allowed with masks and social distancing measures in place.
  • High school students learning on campus will not be allowed to leave campus for lunch or during an off-period.

According to the plan, the following are the guidelines for school-wide events:

  • Until further notice, schools are not allowed to plan large events such as all-school assemblies, social events, pep rallies, or fundraising events that bring groups of more than 10 people together.
  • To ensure there are no large gatherings on school grounds, all school-wide events will be held virtually, including awards assemblies, fundraising events, school-wide performances, and field days, until guidelines change
  • Administration will follow all district guidelines in regard to sports events, sports practices, and fine art events and rehearsals.

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