City of West Allis Health Department Works Diligently to Manage COVID Cases

City of West Allis Health Department Works Diligently to Manage COVID Cases
Posted on 02/11/2021
This is the image for the news article titled City of West Allis Health Department Works  Diligently to Manage COVID CasesDuring this unprecedented time, our District has leaned on the expertise of the West Allis Health Department.  Our District Nursing staff has worked closely with our Health Department managing cases of COVID-19.  In an interview with Public Health Nurse, Melissa Thomas, we learn just how nurses are working together to manage COVID cases.

Q: Now that students have returned to school, how does the Health Department help monitor cases?

A: The West Allis Health Department is closely monitoring confirmed and potential COVID-19 cases for the West Allis-West Milwaukee School District.  We maintain a database to track any positive COVID-19 activity and provide recommendations based on current district-wide data trends.  

Q: What do families or staff do if they show signs of COVID or think they were exposed?

A: We are asking all employees and families with students attending school in person to report positive or probable cases of COVID-19 cases to the District Nurses via the email address:  A District nurse follows up using the information from the email. I work closely, and will continue to work closely, with the school nurses and administrative team in identifying positive cases and possible contacts.  

Q:  What happens if a student or staff member tests positive or has close contact with someone that has tested positive?

A:  When cases are reported, nurses make contact and determine if quarantine is necessary. If a person who has tested positive for COVID-19 is in the school and has close contact with another student or staff member, the person who had close contact with the positive case will also need to quarantine at home.  As the Public Health School Liaison I help with difficult scenarios or questions.

Q:  Is it safe for students to be in school?

A: The short answer is yes. The District has developed a safety plan to limit the spread of COVID-19 from person to person. Studies show that most students who test positive for COVID-19 do not contract COVID-19 from school. Rather, most students contract the virus from social gatherings such as family parties and events. It is important to continue to practice social distancing, wear face coverings, and exercise good hand washing. 

Q:  What happens if there is an outbreak at a school? 

A: If there is an outbreak, District nurses will evaluate the situation to see what students need to be quarantined after exposure.  We all work together in managing the information.  Of course, there is a possibility that a classroom or school could shut down for several days in which students would switch to virtual learning to stop the spread of the virus. The District has plans for that if need be.

Q:  How are you making decisions about the safety of students returning to school?

A: The West Allis Health department provides the West Allis-West Milwaukee School District Superintendent with COVID-19 data every week.  The District has developed targets for each step of their Return to School Plan.  The District is also monitoring internal metrics based on the number of cases and number of staff members out on leave due to illness.  The data dashboard they are using is similar to other school districts data.  

“We have coordinated our efforts every step of the way - especially in terms of communication about quarantining.  We are especially thankful for Melissa Thomas.  She has been extremely helpful as we work with staff and families during this challenging time,” said District Nurse, Becky Hardgrove.

Melissa Thomas is a Public Health Nurse for seven years and a member of the West Allis Health Department staff for over four years. Since July 2020, Thomas has served as the School Liaison and works to create a safe learning space for all students and staff.  

Hobbs CV, Martin LM, Kim SS, et al. Factors Associated with Positive SARS-CoV-2 Test Results in Outpatient Health Facilities and Emergency Departments Among Children and Adolescents Aged <18 Years — Mississippi, September–November 2020. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2020;69:1925-1929. DOI: icon.