Explaining the contact tracing process La Crosse area schools follow to limit COVID spread

LA CROSSE/WEST SALEM, Wis. (WKBT) – Some La Crosse area schools are already back to in-person learning, while others are preparing to welcome students back to the classroom soon.

Nurses say COVID cases are expected with in-person learning.

That means adequate contact tracing is crucial.

West Salem students returned to class just last week.

Right now, there’s some good news to share.

“We do not currently have any current students with any COVID infection,” West Salem schools district nurse Beth Clements said.

But Clements says many are close contacts to cases outside the school.

“And so, they’re in quarantine,” Clements said.

That’s when schools go to work to contact trace any exposures.

“When we learn more, we do more,” Clements said.

“Definitely a busy job,” School District of La Crosse director of student services Aimee Zabrowski said. “We are busy.”

Zabrowski says a team of two school nurses contact trace any students or staff exposed to the virus.

“Obviously, right now, we don’t have many students in our building,” Zabrowski said. “So we anticipate that the needs may increase.”

Clements does most of the contact tracing at West Salem.

“Each school is different,” Clements said.

Schools handle the majority of the contact tracing.

“And then pass that information along to the county, who at times may follow up based on additional information that they may have,” Zabrowski said.

Schools notify family members of the close contacts by phone.

“Sometimes, there is a level of frustration there, which is understandable,” Clements said.

But Clements says usually everyone is understanding.

“We’re there for them as a resource for health-wise or any questions during their quarantine,” Clements said.

Both schools realize with more students means the likelihood of more contact tracing.

“We’ve exercised those muscles, and each time it gets to be a little easier,” Clements said. “What choice do we have but to move forward.”

Clements says all 19 COVID-positive cases in the West Salem schools did not originate on district grounds.

Zabrowski says very few, if any positive cases, came from inside La Crosse school buildings.