DeKalb School District plans to begin surveillance testing for COVID-19, provides no details

DeKalb County School District Administration and Instructional Complex on Mtn. Industrial Blvd. in Stone Mountain. Photo by Dean Hesse

DeKalb County, GA — Superintendent Cheryl Watson-Harris held a medical roundtable on September 22 in order to discuss ongoing COVID-19 policies for the DeKalb County School District.

Panelists included members of DCSD’s COVID-19 advisory board who are medical professionals, representatives of the DeKalb Board of Health and the Clarkston Community Health Center.

Panel members reiterated what COVID-19 is and discussed the usefulness of masks. Dr. Jennifer McQuiston, an epidemiologist at the CDC, said, “I personally have been vaccinated and I have continued to wear a mask.”  The CDC recommends continued mask wearing for the unvaccinated, those with compromised immune systems, or indoors when there is a high transmission rate. DCSD continues to require staff and students to wear masks.

Dr. Veda Johnson, a pediatrician, said, “One myth that drives me crazy is that kids don’t get sick. They absolutely can get sick and some children die from it.”

Johnson said the data isn’t in about long term effects, sometimes called “long COVID,” for children, but there are some preliminary indications that the inflammation associated with the disease can affect children long term

Dr. Gina Papa of the Clarkston Community Health Center, said that long term effects on children can include fatigue, brain fog, depression and trauma associated with hospitalization or the death of family members.

Commenters were divided. Some wanted a return to virtual schooling, some wanted the district to mandate vaccines.  One  commenter spouted conspiracy theories about vaccines.

Several parents asked when DCSD would start surveillance testing like other local school districts, including Atlanta Public Schools, are doing.

Dr. Deborah Moore-Sanders stated that DCSD has been partnering with the Department of Public Health to begin a program of surveillance testing. There were no details provided during the Sept. 22 roundtable and the school district didn’t respond to follow up questions about the surveillance testing program.

In response to a question about why the program wasn’t launched sooner, Watson-Harris said that the district has been providing opportunities for testing at schools, and is about to launch systematic surveillance testing.

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