These appeared in today’s Brookings Register (https://brookingsregister.com/e-edition) and summarize my opinion on what is going on with the Brookings COVID School Plan:
Bobcat Tracks Revision Needs to Be Thrown Out
For those of you who have not seen it, it is worth looking at the new Brookings School District COVID-19 Bobcat Tracks Plan (https://www.brookings.k12.sd.us/cms/lib/SD01816867/Centricity/Domain/4/Bobcat%20Tracks%20Plan%20-%20MODIFIED%20DRAFT%209221.pdf). It is an embarrassment to our community.
I supplied the school board with numerous pages of comments regarding specific errors and aspects of the plan that are inconsistent but would like to mention some of my main concerns here.
It is stated within the Bobcat Tracks Four-Phase Plan that there are three factors considered for determining which phase the Brookings School District is in: 1) COVID-19 spread in the community, 2) impact & spread of COVID-19 in the schools, and 3) impact of COVID-19 on the health care systems in Brookings. These are reasonable, but there must be effective quantitative measures for each of these that are defined within the plan.
Based on two of these three factors that the school system states they are considering, they should be in either the Phase III or Phase IV (school closure) based on both the old and new plans. Yet, the Brookings school system is currently at the green, Phase I level. This is going to happen when there are no stated measures for defining the phases. In addition, the plan does not mention who determines the current phase for the school system.
Consider COVID-19 spread in the community. Brookings County is currently at the highest level of community spread defined by the CDC and the SD Department of Health. There is no higher level than the one we are currently in.
Consider impact and spread of COVID-19 in the schools. The spread of COVID-19 in the schools is impossible to determine based on just the reporting of active cases on the school system’s dashboard. To assess the spread of COVID-19 within the schools it is necessary to know the number of new cases reported each day and absenteeism rates among students and staff, which do not seem to be publicly available. It is impossible to monitor the number of new cases within the school system if only active cases are reported. Additionally, given the delay in reporting of test results, a serious outbreak will not be discovered until it too late for effective preventive interventions.
Consider impact of COVID-19 on the health care systems in Brookings. The number of COVID-19 patients at Brookings Health System (BHS) is not an adequate indicator to use for this since many Brookings County patients are either admitted directly to a Sioux Falls hospital or are being transferred from BHS to Sioux Falls. Avera and Sanford recently held a joint press conference due to the large number of COVID-19 patients they are admitting to their hospitals. These health systems specifically pleaded for people to use mitigation efforts, including wearing masks and socially distancing, to slow the spread of this variant.
The plan also states that the school board attempted to reasonably implement guidance from the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). Yet, there is not much in this plan that resembles the recommendations of either the CDC or the AAP other than handwashing. Due to the current highly transmissible Delta variant of this virus, both the CDC and the AAP strongly recommend masking by all students and staff in the school setting and physically distancing, regardless of vaccination status. The proposed plan requires masking only in Phase III. Also recommended in Phase III of the proposed plan is physical distancing, but only if possible.
More children have been infected and hospitalized in the current wave of this outbreak than at any other time during this pandemic. So why is the Brookings School District watering down their plan to protect their staff and our children, as well as their families and our neighbors?
This Thursday, September 9th, the Brookings School Board will be meeting at 6 pm at Dakota Prairie to vote on the new COVID-19 Bobcat Tracks Plan. If you plan on attending, I would recommend that you wear N-95 or KN-95 masks and physically distance from others to protect yourself, your family, and your community.
In addition, there was also this: