Dear ASFM community,
In my last letter I reported that COVID on campus was barely a topic as our PCR testing program once again proved that we have virtually no positive cases on campus. Even after a long holiday weekend, we can report that we have no COVID cases on campus.
We manage COVID in two principal ways: screening and monitoring. Screening occurs when we test the entire ASFM community to identify any possible COVID-19 cases and quarantine them from the community. We screen at the end of long weekends or vacations, and anytime we begin to note that the community transmission rate exceeds 0.5%. We monitor when we test a representative sample of the school community to monitor ongoing viral load. By monitoring we stay informed about the community transmission rate, and should the rate of transmission start to climb we can adjust accordingly.
Now we’re approaching a season of a possible increase in infection. There are still many things we don’t know about COVID. We don’t know, for example, how COVID will behave this winter, but we do know that typically there are more colds and flu in the winter months, so we need to stay prepared. We will continue testing. Community matters.
We are ambitious, and we are working to prioritize health and have more in-person learning. During the second semester, we will begin having classes on Mondays, and our PCR testing program will move into the academic daily schedule. We will use a monitoring protocol to PCR test a relevant random sample of students during the academic day. Of course, should our viral load on campus begin to climb above 0.5% then we will adjust strategy back to a screening protocol.
Finally, let’s return to an important question, “When will PCR testing end?” Of course, our exit strategy will be based on the health of our community, but here are the variables that will drive our decision to end PCR testing on campus:
- A viable and readily available treatment is discovered, and
- The staff and students attain herd immunity with a COVID-19 vaccination rate that exceeds 85%, and
- A winter period with minimal increase in COVID-19 transmission rates.
As a general comment, like many schools in the U.S. (and all of NYC) we are headed in the direction of requiring people to get vaccinated. As always we look for advice from our local authorities as well as strong examples from our international community of schools to help us make the best decisions for ASFM.
At the conclusion of this letter I’ve collected a number of links to information on the state of COVID worldwide. I hope these are helpful to you.
On November 12, at 8:30am our Strategic Planning committee is hosting a virtual breakfast for parents to share their ideas about the future of ASFM. The main topic will be: What matters to you most? Our consultant, Ewan McIntosh of NoTosh Consulting will facilitate the conversation. Yesterday morning many of our former trustees and founders gathered to discuss what they believe are the enduring values of ASFM. This distinguished group of former ASFM leaders challenged us to strive for new and ever higher heights, but not at the expense of our community. Community matters. If you have not contributed your voice to the Strategic Planning process, please do so.
Stay tuned for updates in my instagram account, follow me https://www.instagram.com/george.stewart.asfm/
Covid symptoms: Is it a Cold or Coronavirus? – BBC News
What Comes Next for Kid Vaccines – The Atlantic
Should You Mix and Match COVID-19 Vaccines? – LiveScience.com