Western Dubuque Community School District
Address: 310 4th St. SW, PO Box 68 | Farley, IA 52046
Phone: (563) 744-3885
Fax: (563) 744-3093
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October 8, 2020
Family Message:

On Tuesday, September 29th, the governor and the Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH), made some changes to their guidance regarding quarantining individuals who were in close contact with an individual who tested positive to COVID-19. The guidance (see attachment) stated that "quarantine is no longer recommended if a potential exposure occurs while both the infectious individual and the close contact are wearing face coverings consistently and correctly." This new guidance only applied to exposures that happened in our schools. Exposures in the home would still require individuals to quarantine for 14 days. Based on the change in guidance, we sent a message out to our students and staff which allowed many of them to return to school prior to the 14 day quarantine period.

We recently received a message from the IDPH that contained new information regarding the quarantine guidance. Although last week’s guidance referenced the term “face coverings,” which would include gaiters and face shields, the updated information we received from IDPH states that individuals who use a gaiter or face shields will still need to quarantine if they are in close contact with an infected individual. We contacted the Dubuque County Health Department (DCHD) and they have confirmed that they will quarantine anyone who has close contact with a positive COVID-19 case, if both the infected individual and the close contact are not properly wearing a face mask.

Based on this clarification from IDPH and the follow up conversation with the DCHD, we had two options to consider.

Option 1:  Continue to allow students and staff to wear gaiters and face shields.
  • Anyone wearing of these would be required to quarantine for 14 days after an exposure.
  • Many students do not consistently wear a face mask or a gaiter; they switch back and forth randomly. When completing the contact tracing, we would have no way of knowing which face covering the student was wearing and therefore would not be able to effectively determine if quarantining was necessary.
  • If an individual who test positive is wearing a gaiter or a face shield, everyone who is appropriately wearing a face mask, who was in close contact, would also be required to quarantine for 14 days.
  • We will lose a lot of the possible benefits of the change in guidance on quarantining if we select Option 1.

Option 2: Require all students and staff to appropriately wear a face mask.
  • Currently about 85% of our students and staff wear a face mask. Requiring people to switch from a gaiter or face shield to a face mask would be an unwanted change for these individuals, but the number of people impacted would be smaller.
  • We do have some individuals who are not able to wear a mask due to a medical condition or sensory issue, and we would continue to make exceptions for this group of people
  • All individuals that aren’t able to wear a face mask would still need to be quarantined if they were in close contact to an infected individual.
  • Any individual who tests positive and was unable to wear a face mask, would force any one they came on close contact with them, to be quarantined as well.

Our goal is to safely keep as many staff and students at school as possible. Based on this goal, we will move forward with Option 2. We will begin to require face masks for all students and staff beginning on Monday, October 12th. If you believe your child can’t wear a face mask due to a medical condition, or a sensory issue, you should work with the principal of the school to determine an appropriate plan for them.

Please remember that you should follow the guidance from the IDPH regarding your child attending school. Take your child’s temperature before school each day. Keep them home from school if they are sick. If they have symptoms of COVID-19, consult a medical professional. If they get tested for the virus, keep them home while awaiting the test results. We all need to do our part to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.

Take care of yourself and your family.

Rick Colpitts, Superintendent
Western Dubuque Community School District

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