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What happens if a student or teacher tests positive for COVID-19?

If multiple students and staff test positive, the school could be shut down.

MANATEE COUNTY, Fla. — Our local schools are getting ready to reopen in August. Some Manatee County schools already have their plexiglass desk dividers installed.

But what happens when a student or teacher tests positive for COVID-19?

"We're cleaning the schools, we're practicing social distancing, we are wearing masks,” Manatee County Schools Deputy Superintendent Doug Wagner said. “We feel like we have a very safe and healthy environment.”

But what if all of those safety precautions are not enough to stop the spread? There are a few scenarios that can happen.

What if a teacher tests positive?

“Teachers could work from home,” Wagner said. “They do need to be isolated for 14 days, from the time that they indicated that they had a positive test."

But it's not just the teacher. All students that were in that teacher's classroom also must quarantine for 14 days.

"So those students would move to the eLearning Manatee Program that we have and they would continue to have their instruction just like they would if they were in the class,” Wagner said.

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If a student tests positive, all of that student's classmates must quarantine and learn remotely for 14 days, along with any students or staff involved in before or after school activities with the infected student. All teachers the student has a class with will have to do so, too.

“The schools have a system set up, so they know which students are in which rooms, when,” Wagner said.

This will make it easier for contact tracing. Anyone who comes in direct contact for at least 15 minutes will be required to quarantine. So just passing the infected person in the hallway doesn't count.

“Would each student be required to get tested?” asked 10 Tampa Bay Reporter Lia Fernandez.

“No, we can't require any medical tests from any students or employees,” Wagner said.

And they're not obligated to share that information. But Wagner said the school district encourages students and staff to keep them in the loop.

“I mean this is a community situation we have here where if someone is positive, employees or students, we would like to know absolutely,” Wagner said. “I need to make sure that we’re informed of what is happening.”

If the information is not shared, it will be based on symptoms. That's why schools will be doing temperature checks. The same goes for if a teacher or a student’s family member tests positive in their household.

“If a family member is tested positive then the same rules would apply. “We need you to self-quarantine, we need you to stay at home,” Wagner said. “We need to see if you develop those symptoms yourself or not.”

The worst-case scenario is multiple students and staff testing positive.

That would cause the school to be shut down for deep cleaning, possibly taking two to five days.

"We need everyone to take this very seriously,” Wagner said. “Our job is to provide the safest, healthiest school as possible and to educate our students."

When a student or teacher can return to school will be based on symptoms or a COVID negative test.

Schools are following what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says, which is if you have no symptoms for 24 hours after your 14 days of quarantine, you can go back to school.

Or you can get back to school sooner if you go get tested. You need to test negative twice, 24 hours apart.

Many other school districts have very similar, or even identical plans in place for the upcoming school year.

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