UNION COUNTY — Union County Public Health and Union County Public Schools (UCPS) announced a plan for contact tracing and quarantines in schools on Wednesday (Sept. 29).

The plan outlines a symbiotic relationship between Public Health and UCPS.

Public Health agrees to tell the school district if and when there are positive cases among students or staff should they learn about a positive case from a valid source other than the school district. The school district, in turn, will share news of any positive cases among students or staff if they are notified by a reputable and reliable third party.

When there is a positive case, UCPS will communicate to Public Health the “reasonably likely close contacts of a positive case in the seated classroom setting.” Public Health will then begin contact tracing procedures to determine which students and staff need to quarantine. The county has final say of who needs to quarantine.

“This agreement gives us a solid understanding of the roles and responsibilities for Union County Public Schools staff and Union County employees,” UCPS Superintendent Dr. Andrew Houlihan stated through email. “I want to thank members of Team UCPS who worked diligently on this effort and I am appreciative of the collaboration between UCPS and Union County Public Health.”

Public Health will give UCPS a list of people who tested positive for COVID-19 and are instructed to isolate or quarantine themselves. Those people are excluded from UCPS facilities until the end of an isolation or quarantine period.

“If an individual identified for isolation or quarantine instructions is on school premises when UCPS learns of the individual’s status under the control measures, or if the individual attempts to come onto school premise prior to the end of their isolation or quarantine period, UCPS will take reasonable steps to ensure that such individuals are not permitted on the school premises,” the plan states.

Public Health will provide those who test positive with a guideline on COVID-19 isolation or quarantine protocols. In addition, UCPS will notify specific guidelines focused on attendance and when individuals can return to campus. The school district will make sure positive individuals refrain from being on campus during the quarantine period. UCPS will also look into the possibility of a shorter quarantine period or “the potential avoidance of quarantine requirements under a valid proof exception, consistent with the applicable control measures,” according to the plan.

Public Health “will provide appropriate and accurate documentation to individuals and families so that UCPS can determine their eligibility for excused absences connected to isolation or quarantine measures.”

The plan was signed by Union County Manager Mark Watson and Superintendent Houlihan.

The plan came after the Union County school board’s vote to terminate contact tracing efforts in all 53 public schools which includes over 40,000 students. They also voted to reduce the quarantine period for students and staff under certain situations. The votes took place during a meeting on Sept. 13.