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Growing Concern About How School Districts Will Handle Positive Tests And Exposures Among Students

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- Many districts around the region are back to school while others are still gearing up for the first day of class.

As COVID-19 cases in kids continue to rise, there's growing concern about how schools will handle the virus if a student tests positive or is exposed.

Meantime, UPMC Children's Hospital is now seeing kids hospitalized with the coronavirus every day. A spokesperson said those numbers are only in the single digits, but cases have slightly increased since last month.

The superintendent at East Allegheny School District is afraid those numbers are only going to get higher. Students at East Allegheny just started class on Tuesday, and Superintendent Alan Johnson said he fears what could come.

Right now, four students in his district have either been exposed to or tested positive for COVID-19 just prior to the start of the school year. Johnson believes it's only a matter of time before there's more.

"My concern is keeping an eye on what happens in the next week," Johnson said.

Especially with his elementary students, since kids under 12 years old can't get the vaccine yet.

"I'm concerned about taking large unvaccinated populations and putting them in school, where they're all together," Johnson said.

Doctors said the unvaccinated are the most vulnerable to the Delta variant.

"We've seen a four-fold increase in cases among children in the last month," said Dr. Marc Itskowitz with Allegheny Health Network. "If you look at hospitalizations, it's gone up among the pediatric population as well as the unvaccinated adult population."

Districts like East Allegheny said they're prepared just in case.

"We've been cleaning all along this summer because we used it over the summer for various purposes," Johnson said.

If a student ends up being exposed to the virus in a school building, the superintendent said there's a plan in place.

"We would not use the room," Johnson said. "We would clean and use disinfectant on the entire room, try to let it sit for 24 hours and put the room back into usage."

As for quarantining, Superintendent Johnson said it all depends on vaccination status and exposure. He encourages parents to stay up to date on district health and safety plans.

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