11/17/2021 - Maricopa County Department of Public Health Masked Test-To-Stay Program

Posted by Madison Communications on 11/17/2021

Dear Madison Families,

During the COVID-19 pandemic, CDC and public health have required unvaccinated students who are close contacts of people infected with COVID-19 to quarantine at home to ensure the safety of all staff and students. Public health and educators recognize the importance of keeping students in school in a safe environment, and the Madison School District and Maricopa County Department of Public Health (MCDPH) are committed to promoting student learning while keeping students and staff safe and in school. We have learned a great deal over the past school year and our current plan and procedures reflect the most updated recommendations from the CDC and the Arizona Department of Health Services.

Madison and MCDPH are working in collaboration to evaluate the effectiveness of an alternative quarantine option for students who are not fully vaccinated, referred to as “masked test-to-stay.” When used in a layered approach with universal masking, distancing, hand hygiene, and air filtration, masked test-to-stay allows unvaccinated students who have had close contact in the classroom with a person who tested positive for COVID-19 to stay in school during the quarantine period, as long as the following criteria are met:

  1. Both students have consistently and correctly worn face masks at the time the classroom exposure occurred
  2. Close contacts do not have COVID-19 symptoms
  3. Close contacts continue to consistently and correctly wear face masks, and
  4. Close contacts test negative for COVID-19 at the time their exposure is identified, and again on days 3 and 5 following their exposure (or Day 6, if Day 5 occurs on a weekend or holiday).  

Note: Individuals who are vaccinated are much less likely to spread or contract the virus. However, it is still possible for vaccinated individuals to spread the virus to others. Therefore, it is important for us to create a safe and inclusive environment for both vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals.  If a student tests positive for COVID-19 at any time, they must isolate at home for the CDC-recommended 10 days after symptoms appeared or 10 days after the positive test, before returning to school. The student must also be without a fever for 24 hours.

Because the success of masked test-to-stay programs depends on a layered approach, Madison District has identified 4 schools that meet the following criteria developed by MCDPH for participation:

  • 95% or greater adherence with correct and universal masking indoors at the school, as reported by school administrators (based on school mask opt-out data)
  • Willingness to have some schools participate as comparison groups
  • Partnership with MCDPH

Two schools (Madison Heights Elementary and Madison #1 Middle School) will serve as the intervention schools, with masked test-to-stay offered as an optional alternative to current quarantine procedures. Two schools, Madison Camelview Elementary and Madison Park Middle School, will serve as a comparison group and follow CDC standard, at-home quarantine procedures with additional at-home testing.

Students may only participate with permission from a parent or guardian. Consent forms will be distributed to parents and guardians at the time they are notified that their student is a close contact. There is no charge for participating.

We will begin this pilot program during the week of November 22nd. The evaluation period will last until December 17th, and results from the evaluation are expected in mid-January, which will be shared with the Madison community.

More than 25 other US jurisdictions have implemented similar programs and preliminary results have shown that COVID-19 transmission is rare (<1% to 4%) in these circumstances. Students participate in masked test-to-stay for at least five days after exposure. The test performed is a quick, non-invasive nasal swab that is collected at home or at school. Unlike COVID-19 tests of the past, these are not uncomfortable and easy for most parents/guardians to perform themselves on their student(s). A video and instructions will be provided with the test. There will also be an option for parents/guardians to bring the student to school for testing if that is preferred. 

It is important to Madison and MCDPH that you are fully informed regarding the process and that we can answer any questions that you might have in advance of asking you to sign the consent form. If you have additional questions regarding the program, please reply to this email so that you can be directed to the appropriate person.

Madison and MCDPH will be evaluating the safety and effectiveness of this pilot program with the hopes that it can soon be used more broadly throughout the District and in schools across Maricopa County. Our goal is to keep our schools safe and students in school. Thank you again for your support during this challenging time.

Sincerely,

Dr. Kenneth Baca
Superintendent 

Dr. Rebecca Sunenshine
Medical Director, MCDPH