In a statement to PNC, Jane Roe, a GDOE teacher, says a coworker of hers “caught COVID from her student who was sent back to class by the nurse even though he was coughing and sneezing. The nurse claims she’s using a protocol and cannot send every student who has classic cold symptoms home.”
But the child tested positive for COVID, and Roe and her coworker are convinced it’s from that student. The teachers don’t blame the student or the nurse; they blame leadership, namely the principal of the school, the Superintendent and even the Governor.
Under GDOE and DPHSS protocol, her coworker, who is a parent to two young children, now has to spend the next 5 days in isolation.
Roe said it’s unclear if teachers will have to burn through their sick leave if they contract COVID from the school. According to Roe, teachers only get 3 days of paid sick leave, and current DPHSS guidance requires that a person who has COVID isolate for a period of 5 days.
“If contact tracing is directly from the school,” said Erika Cruz, GDOE Deputy Superintendent of Assessment & Accountability, “then they will have to file a worker’s comp.”
Cruz said teachers would receive administrative leave for the 5 days they are required to isolate, preserving their sick leave, but repeated, “If they contract COVID-19 at the school.”
GDOE COVID Protocol
GDOE Superintendent Jon Fernandez says they are working to update COVID protocol to reduce case incidence at the school while also keeping up to date with guidance from DPHSS.
“If you test positive, you definitely have to isolate,” Fernandez said. “Right now, if you’re unvaccinated, it’s 10 days. If you’re vaccinated, it’s 5 days.
“After that, based on existing protocol within GDOE, you need to get a Public Health clearance document before you can return.”
Fernandez said he is aware that DPHSS no longer requires DPHSS clearance to return to work after recovering from COVID, but GDOE is looking for another way to receive verification and clearance before staff return to work.
Much of the current surge is driven by Omicron, according to experts at DPHSS, which causes milder symptoms than previous COVID strains. According to CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the data reveal that fewer people are suffering severe illness, hospitalization, and death from Omicron, especially among the vaccinated.
Dr. Walensky reported, “A study of 1.2 million people who were vaccinated between December and October demonstrated that severe disease occurred in about 0.015% of the people who received their primary series and death in 0.003% of those people.”
DPHSS guidance reflects the science and recommendations set forth by the CDC.
Currently, GDOE protocol reflects guidance from earlier COVID strains, namely, the deadlier Delta variant. But Guam is still seeing Delta, according to Dr. Robert Leon Guerrero, Acting Chief Medical Officer for DPHSS, though national and global data suggest most cases in Guam by now are Omicron.
Note: An earlier version of this story depicted the JFKHS façade as the cover photo. It was not meant to represent the teacher’s workplace but as a synecdoche for GDOE. Such a decision will go through more consideration going forward and PNC will work hard not to make such a poor choice again.