Health director looks to clear up ‘misunderstanding’ related to school COVID responsibilities

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Health director Shaun McAuliffe, appearing before the Select Board at Tuesday’s meeting, said he wanted to make clear the roles and responsibilities for his department and the School Department as it relates to following individuals with COVID-19 exposure.

“I’m concerned that there has been a misunderstanding and am hoping that we can clarify our roles so we do not misrepresent the facts,” McAuliffe said.

While McAuliffe did not indicate what prompted this clarification, the Hopkinton Teachers Association, in a recent statement opposing the district’s plan to return to full-time in-person learning, claimed that “as of January 26th the Hopkinton Department of Health has abandoned the Hopkinton Public Schools in their contract-tracing efforts.” The HTA also claimed the Health Department “had at times drawn conclusions about school safety that were contradicted by health departments in neighboring communities.”

Said McAuliffe: “There is a clear delineation of responsibilities between the Health Department and the School Department. The Health Department is responsible for monitoring the public health of all residents and working with the schools to support their COVID-19 responsibilities. The schools’ responsibilities are documented in the Department of Early and Secondary Education’s July 17, 2020, “Protocols for Responding to COVID-19 Scenarios in School, on the Bus, or in Community Settings,” revised December 16, 2020. This document clearly states that the school district is responsible for case identification, the communication of quarantine and isolation guidelines, the identification of close contacts and all other relevant communications to the individual parties and school community.

“Like with all other communicable/infectious diseases, the school district must communicate their findings to the local board of health.

“The Health Department supported and continues to support the Hopkinton School District with their duties. We work collaboratively with the schools to monitor and track family members who do not attend the schools. Students are the responsibility of the school district. The Health Department will continue to assist the district with their reopening planning, while providing case management outside of the school, operating vaccine clinics, while continuing to perform the non-COVID duties under our jurisdiction.”

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