MMSD scales back contact tracing efforts, reduces quarantine & isolation times

MADISON, Wis. — Leaders with the Madison Metropolitan School District announced two major changes to the district’s COVID-19 mitigation strategy, citing updated public health guidance from local, state and federal officials.

The changes include scaled-back contact tracing alerts for families and decreased isolation and quarantine times for those who are exposed or test positive for COVID-19.

“With positive COVID-19 case counts at unprecedented levels, MMSD health services staff have needed to prioritize their work in order to stay ahead of an increased demand for services,” the district’s statement reads. “As a result, the district is shifting from tracing contacts of positive cases to contacting only individuals who test positive and their high-risk close contacts (household members), assuming there is adequate supply of COVID-19 tests.”

Families will no longer get emails, texts, phone calls or school-wide notifications about positive cases. District officials said families looking to keep track of positive cases on a school- or district-wide level should check MMSD’s COVID-19 data dashboard.

Isolation and quarantine times will also be cut from 10 days to five days for people who meet “determined criteria.” Mask wearing at school will still be required after isolation or quarantine.

The district’s latest COVID-19 protocols come just days after the district returned to in-person learning, following a delayed start to the spring semester caused by district-wide staffing shortages caused by the rapidly spreading virus.

RELATED: Madison school board approves temporary plan to reinstate COVID-19 leave for employees

Read the district’s full release below:

MADISON – Today, Madison Metropolitan School District (MMSD) informed families of two significant changes to its COVID-19 Risk Mitigation Strategy.  The changes come as a result of the recent surge in COVID-19 infections and recently revised guidelines for schools from Public Health Madison Dane County (PHMDC), Wisconsin Department of Health (DHS), and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

These two changes include:

Contact tracing and positive case notification

With positive COVID-19 case counts at unprecedented levels, MMSD health services staff have needed to prioritize their work in order to stay ahead of an increased demand for services. As a result, the district is shifting from tracing contacts of positive cases to contacting only individuals who test positive and their high-risk close contacts (household members), assuming there is adequate supply of COVID-19 tests.  As a part of this shift, schools will no longer be issuing emails, texts, or phone calls to close contacts, nor providing school-wide notifications of positive cases. In order to stay informed on the number of positive cases in MMSD, we encourage visiting the district’s public case count dashboard, which is updated weekly.  MMSD data shows there is very low spread of COVID-19 in Madison schools due to rigorous and layered mitigation strategies, and MMSD is one of only a few school districts in Wisconsin who, at any point during the pandemic, provided this high level of contact tracing, far exceeding requirements for schools.

Isolation and quarantine times

Beginning Tuesday, January 18, keeping with new guidance from CDC, DHS, and PHMDC, our district will implement a change in quarantine or isolation time from 10 days to five days for people who meet determined criteria. Strict mask wearing at school and in the community continues to be required after isolation or quarantine. For more information, we encourage you to visit the MMSD webpage.