DES MOINES, Iowa — Leaders with the Iowa Department of Public Health have changed the way they approach COVID-19 to investigate positive cases and contact trace possible exposures, according to a new state document.
The updated guidance was shared with county public health leaders and school districts this week as thousands of Iowa families prepare for the upcoming school year.
IDPH is no longer performing case investigations or conducting contact tracing for each COVID-19 case. Rather, the state's approach moving forward is to follow the influenza model: case investigation and tracing efforts for coronavirus will now focus on outbreaks and vulnerable populations.
The state advises local public health department leaders they cannot require school officials to investigate new coronavirus cases or contact trace exposed individuals.
"School nurses do have a legal duty to assist a local board of health in a disease investigation," IDPH noted.
You can see the full documents below.
State public health officials also advised schools to continue to follow the model of reporting to the state when more than 10% of students are absent due to illness.
Some schools that had COVID-19 dashboards showing positive teachers, students, and staff last school year have since removed those sections on their district websites.
Several Iowa parents called into the Iowa Department of Education meeting Thursday to complain about the lack of a mask mandate in public schools. In May, Gov. Kim Reynolds signed a bill into law, prohibiting a public school district from creating mask mandate policies.
“Please set politics aside and help protect our children’s safety, their learning and their families,” said Jesse Richardson-Jones, a Des Moines mother.
Erin Kelly, a central Iowa educator and mother of school-aged children also voiced frustration with state leaders.
"I would urge you, like many have, who have spoken before me to make a statement supporting the rescinding of that ban on mask mandates, because ultimately, that's going to be our greatest protection," said Kelly. "And it's an easy protection."
Reynolds has stood by her decision to ban mask mandates by school officials.
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