Parents in the community are contesting Branch-Hillsdale-St. Joseph Community Health Agency’s mandatory COVID-19 school contact tracing.
On Sept. 3, the agency issued an order that mandates quarantine for those exposed to COVID-19 in Branch, Hillsdale and St. Joseph counties. This order applies to individuals who reside, attend school, or are employed within the aforementioned counties.
On Sept. 10, Community Health Agency Officer Rebecca Burns updated the mandate to exclude masked students from quarantining, but in the health agency’s board meeting Sept. 23, parents still spoke out against the mandate.
Derek Shaw, parent of students in the Bronson Community School district, said the contact tracing policy is unnecessary and academically unproductive.
“Per my superintendent Mr. Steve Wilson, less than three-quarters of 1% of healthy kids forced into quarantine ever developed symptoms or tested positive for COVID-19, yet they were forced into a virtual learning system that has been a complete failure,” Shaw said.
Coldwater High School Volleyball Coach Kelsey Closson said the quarantines have been challenging for the volleyball team.
“We have had multiple girls quarantined three times already,” Closson said. “They have only been in school eight days this year.”
Dr. Lauren Vogel, BHSJ medical officer, said the agency is trying to reduce the spread of the virus.
“The problem is if the kids get sick, they don’t necessarily have a bad outcome, but if they take it home to granny … it might have a bad outcome,” Vogel said.
Burns said the quarantine order will remain in effect until the state is below an 8% COVID-19 transmission rate, according to the Hillsdale Daily News.
Vogel previously said the mandate didn’t have a specified end.
“Until we have control of the emerging numbers of infections, there’s no date in sight,” he told The Collegian earlier this month.
There is not much data about the virus at the county level, but overall, the virus has a 98% survival rate in the United States as of Sept. 27, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
According to the Hillsdale Daily News, Hillsdale parent Jennifer Wagner said there is more harm in keeping children out of school than spreading COVID-19.
“We must live with risks,” Wagner said.