A positive COVID-19 case does not necessarily mean a school must close down
State health officials say that there are 22 COVID-19 outbreaks traced to New Jersey schools, for a total of 83 cases.
But just because a student or staff member inside one of these schools tests positive for the virus, it doesn’t mean that the school has to necessarily completely shut down.
Days before classes restarted in the Lakewood School District, safety precautions were put into place and confident school officials vowed to maintain in-person education. There are now 27 positive cases of COVID-19 in Lakewood schools, but the schools remain open.
“They have some cases, but they are open full-time with the preventive components in place…they have those open lines of communication with us to walk us through each case individually,” says Ocean County Health Department public health coordinator Dan Regenye.
The school districts base their decision to open or closed on guidelines released by the state Department of Health. Once a case is identified, the schools work with local health departments to determine the best course of action.
“It’s all dependent on how those questions get answered on a disease investigation, contact tracing. That’s why it’s so important, it’s what guides our recommendation and the interpretation of that school,” Regenye says.
Which is why the health coordinator says that Lakewood Public Schools remained open, even with numbers showing infections in most buildings. A district can also choose to close, even if the Health Department recommends it can stay open.
“Some are taking to err on the side of caution when it comes to the safety of our kids in the community. Some are being very cautious with this, so it’s not a bad approach,” he says.
Regenye says despite Ocean County leading the state with new positive cases, there is no indication a mandatory school shutdown notice will come from the state in the county's most infected areas.