MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WBTW) — “Hello, parents. This is a message from [SCHOOL_NAME] informing you that a COVID-19 case was identified in a person who may have been contagious with the virus while on the school bus. Contract tracing at the school has been completed and your child, [STUDENT_NAME], may have been in the same location as the identified person.”
That’s the message that Horry County Parents will hear if their child has been in possible contact with someone who had COVID-19 while on a bus. The message, which goes on to ask parents to check their emails for more information, is one of 13 different templates and scripts the district has drafted to inform its patrons about possible exposures to the virus.
The letters and scripts, which were obtained by News13 through a freedom of information records request, includes messages about close and non-close contacts that could occur on a school bus, in the classroom or in general at school. There are separate messages for potential contacts that occur at an elementary school, or at the middle and high schools.
The templates were created at the beginning of the school year to provide clarity for parents, according to Lisa Bourcier, a spokeswoman for Horry County Schools. Parents will be alerted via email and a phone call by a school principal or nurse if their student potentially had contact with someone with the virus. Anyone who will need to quarantine will receive a personalized phone call.
“Anybody that has been in close contact will definitely get notification,” Bourcier said.
There have been 3,004 COVID-19 cases statewide in South Carolina schools, according to information Friday from the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control. Of those, two-thirds have been students.
The majority of Horry County Schools have had zero or fewer than five cases. The state does not give the exact number of cases at a school if it has less than five.
St. James High School has had 12 student cases and less than five faculty cases, Socastee High School has had seven cases and less than five faculty cases, North Myrtle Beach High School has had six student cases, Myrtle Beach High School has had six student cases and Carolina Forest High School has had five student cases and less than five faculty cases. Socastee Elementary School has had five faculty cases and less than five student cases.
Letters to families with students who were in close contact with someone with COVID-19 inform them of a mandatory 14-day quarantine.
“Today I was notified by the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control 9SCDHEC) that an individual at [SCHOOL_NAME] tested positive for COVID-19,” the script letter reads. “Contact tracing at the school has been completed. Your child, [STUDENT_NAME] has been deemed to have been in close contact (someone who was within 6 feet of an infected person for 15 minutes or more) with this person and is required to stay home and quarantine per SCDHEC regulations.”
The letter goes on to list quarantine requirements and mentions that affected areas will see additional cleaning and disinfecting. Students will participate in full-time distance learning while in quarantine.
The letters include additional information from DHEC and all follow the same general template.
Students who were in a shared setting — like a classroom or group setting — with an infected individual are not automatically considered to have been in close contact with them.
After being alerted of a positive case, a DHEC nurse, a school nurse and district staff work to determine who might have been a close contact. Students who were not in close contact with someone with the virus are not required to quarantine.
A student or employee who tests positive can return to school 10 days after their symptoms started and 24 hours after their last fever (without using fever-reducing medication), and when their symptoms have improved.
Bourcier said it’s important for families to keep their contact information up to date in the school system so they can receive notifications.
The district does not have a template for if a student or employee dies from COVID-19.
“That would have to be something we would have to discuss and work on as a community, and a school community — on any fatality, and I think we would handle it the same as any fatality with the staff or a staff member, and a lot of those are on a case-by-case basis,” Bourcier said.