Dear TMI Community,
As cases of COVID-19 continue to rise in San Antonio, we remain committed to providing our students with an excellent educational experience while keeping the health and safety of all members of our community a top priority. The TMI administration receives and evaluates data from Metro Health on a daily basis, closely monitoring trends overall and those specific to our area. For those who regularly view the online dashboards provided by the City of San Antonio regarding the pandemic, you already know that the average daily case rate is trending upward.
While we can’t know for certain what will happen over the next few days and weeks, we can rely on the numbers from Metro Health to help us identify trends and be proactive in responding to what the data projections show, allowing us to best protect our community and do our part in keeping case numbers down. Knowing what we do about the rising case rate, and based on the recommendations of our medical advisors, TMI will continue with remote instruction through the remainder of this semester and for the one week following the Christmas break. The second semester will begin on January 5, 2021, with all classes in remote instruction; in-person instruction is scheduled to resume on Monday, January 11, 2021.
Although all academic instruction will be conducted remotely, Wednesday community activities, such as Corps of Cadets formations, will continue at this time. In addition, while Middle School athletics will continue to only meet virtually, Upper School athletics will continue to practice and play. However, no spectators will be allowed during the remote period. Our senior students will also have the option to give their Senior Chapel Talk live, in person, with limited guests in the chapel or they may submit a video chapel talk. We will continue to evaluate the safety of all our athletic and extracurricular programs on an ongoing basis to ensure that these activities can continue safely.
With less than two weeks remaining in this semester, the decision to extend remote instruction for one additional week after the Christmas break is to reduce any potential community spread upon return from the break as symptoms will most likely develop at home. This week, following the Thanksgiving holiday, we had 17 students and faculty report testing positive, that they are awaiting test results, or that they have been in close contact with a positive case. By preemptively going remote after the holiday, we prevented a larger potential spread within the community. Just as with Thanksgiving, we know that many families will be celebrating together and we ask that you continue to make smart choices if you travel during the break or gather with extended family members outside your household.
The decision to continue with remote instruction is not one that was made lightly. We understand the disruption to your daily life that remote instruction may have on your family and know that you value an in-person experience as much as we do. However, this pandemic is not yet finished and many aspects of our lives are still not the same as before. Below, we have outlined some of the core indicators that assist us in making the big decision to switch to remote instruction. As we all continue to learn more about the virus and work to control a surge in cases worldwide, we invite you to follow with us and watch the same metrics that weigh heavily in the school’s decision to move to remote instruction.
Metro Health and CDC guidance:
The CDC lists three core indicators for schools to use in their decision-making process for assessing risk in a school’s community, which take into account both community burden and mitigation efforts:
The number of new cases per 100,000 persons within the last 14 days, AND/OR
The percentage of RT-PCR tests that are positive during the last 14 days, AND
The school’s ability to adhere to the key mitigation strategies (use of masks, social distancing, hand washing, cleaning and disinfection, and contact tracing)
Locally, the Metro Health Department looks at the following metrics to recommend moving into the red zone for school risk level:
Increasing numbers in the community
New cases per day/100,000 using a 7-day running average
Positivity rate above 10%
What do these indicators mean for TMI?
With a population of just over 2 million in Bexar County, in order to reach an incidence of 50 new cases per day, per 100,000 (which is the start of the red zone on the Metro Health Progress & Warning Indicators dashboard), the 7-day running average of new cases would be 1,000. While the percent positivity rate is something that we continue to monitor, it is now considered a secondary criteria due to its variability that is dependent upon community spread and the number of people being tested. This makes it possible for this number to go down, even when the incidence of illness is increasing, if more asymptomatic people are getting tested.
Therefore, while there is no line that is set in stone when it comes to COVID-19, the metrics outlined below – that are in line with the recommendations of the CDC and Metro Health above – would most likely result in a shift to remote instruction in the future and were used in the decision-making process to continue with remote instruction now through January 11:
TMI criteria for shifting to remote instruction:
7-day running average of 1,000 or more positive cases
Positivity rate over 10%
Over 50 cases per 100,000
Using the data from Metro Health, the 7-day running average (as of December 2) of new positive cases is 802, an increase from the previous day of 735. This week alone, we’ve seen two days with new case numbers above 1,000; Monday saw 1,117 new cases and 1,499 new cases on Wednesday. While Metro Health updates their online dashboards once weekly on Monday evening, we are tracking and charting daily. The graph below illustrates both the 7-day and 14-day running averages using numbers reported by Metro Health: