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Update on Vaccines and Testing from Supt. Copeland
Update on Vaccines and Testing from Supt. Copeland

Dear LMSD Families,

As I mentioned in my letter last week, we are very happy that some of our staff who qualify in Phase 1A have been able to get the COVID-19 vaccine that's being administered in Montgomery County. However, this week, Montgomery County Commissioner Dr. Val Arkoosh shared information about the vaccine supply that is impacting how many vaccination appointments are available. According to Dr. Arkoosh, the primary issues are (1) the supply of the vaccine at the federal level and (2) our county's allocation of that supply.

She reports that there is little remaining stored supply of vaccine at the federal level and that new vaccines are coming directly from the pharmaceutical companies to the Pennsylvania Department of Health (and other state-level health departments). She said she also believes that Montgomery County is receiving a disproportionately smaller number of doses compared with other counties, based on our demographics. She has been advocating for more allocations for Montgomery County.

In addition to the county's efforts, the District will be advocating directly to the state for additional vaccines specifically for school employees in Montgomery County. This is especially critical given that the Phase 1A category now includes people aged 65 and over and those with certain health conditions. According to the county, this expansion of the 1A category has added more than 250,000 Montgomery County residents to that group who are now eligible for vaccinations before Phase 1B (which includes the balance of our school district staff as well as first responders, such as firefighters and police).

Some community members have asked what, if anything, they can do to ensure that school staff receives the vaccine as soon as possible. One option would be to contact the office of the Pa. Secretary of Health to indicate your support for allocating additional vaccines for school employees in Montgomery County. The Secretary's office can be reached at nwardle@pa.gov.

As we anxiously await the day when all of our staff can be vaccinated, we are continuing our ACE-it testing program. Over the eight full days of testing so far, our nurses have administered an average of about 180 tests per day. These tests turned up four positives in asymptomatic people, who were immediately quarantined. This is good news on many levels. First, the quarantines are mitigating spread, which is a primary goal of the program. Plus, we are seeing lower positivity rates in our District staff than those in the surrounding Lower Merion/Narberth community – which already has the lowest positivity rates in the county.

Though we are certainly still in the midst of the pandemic, I am beginning to feel cautiously optimistic. Our Administration is continuing to consult with public health officials and CHOP's PolicyLab for their guidance as we plan scenarios for how and when to return students to fulltime in-person instruction. They tell us it may be possible that could happen this spring, if staff can be vaccinated and student testing can be ramped up, among other variables. And we are planning for expanded in-person summer programs. The situation remains fluid and unpredictable, and we certainly need to continue the current precautions, such as masking, social-distancing and hand-washing. But I feel we are taking the steps we need to return to "normal."

Sincerely,

Robert Copeland
Superintendent

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