Council to require DC schools to speed up notification of positive COVID-19 cases

A bill passed by the D.C. Council on Tuesday will require public schools to notify parents if a student in their child’s class has tested positive for COVID-19 within 24 hours.

“We are just asking that it happen more quickly,” said At-Large Council member Robert C. White Jr., who introduced the emergency legislation. “Because if a parent gets a notice that three, four days ago, there was a COVID infection in their child’s classroom, they’ve sort of missed the opportunity to quarantine and prevent additional spread.”

His bill, which passed unanimously, also requires the Office of the State Superintendent to post the percentage of asymptomatic testing that is being done in each school.

Additionally, D.C. Public Schools will have to notify the council which schools still do not have expanded COVID-19 staffing, including a COVID-19 coordinator and an extra full-time substitute teacher, which the council required in legislation passed in October.

Council Chair Phil Mendelson said that he is frustrated that the city has been slow to act on hiring additional staff.

“The mayor announced last October that every school would have a COVID strategy and logistics coordinator. We are now midway through the month of January and the chancellor and the deputy mayor have indicated by the end of this month their goal. That’s the best they can say. Their goal is that schools will have strategy and logistics coordinators,” Mendelson said.

According to The Washington Post, school officials have said they are having difficulty making those additional hires because of national staffing shortages.

The council passed a number of other bills, including a foreclosure moratorium extension until June 30. Homeowners who apply for federal housing assistance will have until Sept. 30.

Council member Janeese Lewis George, who introduced the bill, said the city is expecting to receive $50 million in federal housing aid soon.

“It’d be premature to allow the foreclosure moratorium to expire before homeowners can apply for the assistance they need to prevent an unnecessary foreclosure and get back on their feet,” Lewis George said. The current extension is set to expire Feb. 4.

Mendelson, who voted in favor of the bill, said he may introduce an amendment during the next council meeting to address concerns being voiced by condo associations. He said condo associations, especially those in Wards 7 and 8 have complained that delinquent condo owners who don’t pay condo fees shift the costs of utilities and maintenance on to neighbors who can’t shoulder those extra charges.

Lewis George said the moratorium would expire Oct. 1, but could be extended again.

“I want to be clear that if we get to the summer or fall and conditions on the ground change significantly, or D.C. has distributed federal assistance to struggling homeowners right, then we can come back to the table and extend these protections further.”

More Coronavirus news

Looking for more information? D.C., Maryland and Virginia are each releasing more data every day. Visit their official sites here: Virginia | Maryland | D.C.

Shayna Estulin

Shayna Estulin joined WTOP in 2021 as an anchor/reporter covering breaking news in the D.C. region. She has loved radio since she was a child and is thrilled to now be part of Washington’s top radio news station.

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