DPH responds to ‘small number’ of school-related COVID compliance complaints

Several complaints about schools complying with COVID-19 protocols have come into the Division of Public Health, a spokeswoman said.

“DPH has received a small number of complaints, a handful at most, related to COVID compliance related to schools,” said Jen Brestel, a spokeswoman for DPH. “These types of complaints are handled in the same manner as other compliance complaints. No enforcement action has been needed related to schools.”

Generally, when a complaint is submitted through the phone, or HSPcontact@delaware.gov, the reports are forwarded to the appropriate “field office,” with one in each county to handle, she said.

“First reports and minor complaints are often handled by phone call to provide information and education,” she said. “Repeat or more severe complaints are handled via site visit, again with a focus on education. The most severe or repeat offenders could receive an administrative letter or penalty.”

She added that complaints regarding violations for schools have not been saturated in any one particular area.

Largely, a spokeswoman for the Delaware Department of Education said, reports of potential violations should go to the Division of Public Health, as residents do for businesses.

Several schools downstate opened their doors hybrid to start. Cape Henlopen, Woodbridge, Seaford and Polytech were among districts that opted to start as such after Gov. John Carney gave the greenlight for a mixture remote and in-person instruction in August.

Other schools are mostly remote, with small in-person groups — like Lake Forest and Caesar Rodney — while others opted for an entirely remote start that would slowly phase in-person instruction into the schedule.

Cape Henlopen announced its first positive case in its high school Tuesday, stating that “the student will not return to school until the 14-day quarantine period has passed.”

“In this instance, social distancing and mask wearing was practiced consistently and the Division of Public Health has advised that no further quarantining by staff or students is warranted. Individual families will be contacted as necessary,” the statement to families continued.

It was the positive case at Cape Henlopen High that prompted one family member, Chet Elder, to write to several administrators and board members — and DPH — about what he observed as potential COVID-19 protocol violations as he waited for his grandchild during parent pick up. However, in an email response to Mr. Elder, Principal Nikki Miller offered a differing perspective, stating she was there for parent pick up, and observed that students “socially distanced and all had masks.” She added the school would “continue to monitor and educate on the importance of mask wearing, hand washing, and social distancing even once they leave the school building.”

In an email, district spokeswoman Kristi Marsh said safety was of the utmost importance.

“When [we] receive any complaints, we take them seriously and investigate the situation,” she said. “As we have reopened, we have taught and reminded students and staff of expected behaviors and have administrators and other staff members on duty to help enforce this. We also remind students to keep their masks on and practice distancing while on Cape property not just in the school building. We take all reports seriously and will continue monitoring to be able to enforce all of our safety protocols.”

Two educators in Smyrna School District — which will begin bringing some students back for hybrid learning Oct. 5 — tested positive for the virus. More than 700 were tested.

“Because we are faithfully following all state guidelines, both cases were addressed successfully through our operational protocols and liaison with DPH,” Superintendent Patrik Williams said in an email.

The state is still determining how it will report positive cases of COVID-19 in schools, officials said during Gov. Carney’s press briefing Tuesday.

“We know that there will be, and have been cases already, associated with schools — not transmission within a school, which is a good thing,” Gov. Carney said. “It’s still early, [with a] handful of districts that are in person, but we’re trying to figure out ways to make that available and fully address the reporting requirement there.”

Dr. Karyl Rattay, director of the Division of Public Health, said that there is no “exact date” for publishing the information about positive cases in schools, but they are “working on getting that up.”

The goal is to capture the amount of positive cases and how many individuals may have been contagious in school facilities, she said.

Helpful Coronavirus links

Delaware Division of Health Coronavirus Page
CDC: About the Coronavirus Disease 2019
CDC: What to do if You Are Sick
Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center
AP News Coronavirus Coverage
Reopening Delaware: Resources for Businesses
Delaware Phase 2 guidance

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