Confusion lingers for contact tracing in Knox County Schools

A Knox County Schools grandmother said delay in contact tracing has put lives in danger.
Published: Aug. 30, 2021 at 6:45 PM EDT
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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) - A Knox County Schools grandmother said delay in contact tracing has put lives in danger.

Marie Miller received a text after school on August 26, that her 15-year-old grandson was exposed to COVID-19.

The message said he needed to quarantine from August 19-29.

“It breaks my heart to know that my grandson has exposed somebody else,” said Miller.

Her grandson, Isaiah, went to school for a week not knowing he had been exposed. During that time, he wore a mask and didn’t have any symptoms.

Miller said he tested positive the next day.

“I broke down in tears because I know the health condition of my husband and my mother in law,” she said.

Since she cares for both of them in her home, she worried about what would happen if they caught the virus.

“Knox County doesn’t seem to care,” Miller said.

She said she let her grandchildren’s schools know about her grandson testing positive and that her granddaughter in middle school would be in quarantine.

“And I called Knox County Schools and let them know and they just keep passing the buck back and forth,” said Miller.

A spokesperson with the TN Department of Health wrote:

“The Tennessee Department of Health conducts COVID contact tracing in schools throughout the state. When cases are identified in students or staff, schools are expected to supply a list of identified close contacts, seating charts, and rosters to the extent those documents are maintained (for bus, classroom, lunchroom, or athletics settings, as applicable). The health department and schools cooperate to ensure that contacts are notified via phone and text messages. However, if contact information is not available to the health department, that may result in delayed outreach to the affected student or caregiver. All COVID cases and contacts are expected to follow standard TDH recommendations regarding isolation and quarantine.”

A spokesperson for the Knox County Health Department emailed, that they encourage all people who test positive to notify close contacts individually, since turnaround time for letting close contacts know about exposure can vary.

Miller believed Knox County Schools needs to choose other learning options for the time being.

“I think right now it is in the best interest of Knox County to close the schools and do the virtual for the kids to do the online stuff for a few weeks and let this virus slow down, get every body better and then take school back in,” explained Miller.

The whole family has quarantined.

WVLT News contacted Knox County Schools about the communication turnaround time, but have yet to hear back.

On Wednesday there will be a special school board meeting to discuss coronavirus policies.

According to a Knox County Schools spokesperson, student attendance rate was 81.7% on Monday and staff attendance rate was 90.4%.

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