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CASSANDRA JENKINS — Port Arthur ISD staff affected by COVID-19

The Port Arthur Independent School District did not escape the summer without running into COVID-19 implications.

The district announced at its most recent school board meeting that 72 employees were affected with the virus as of June 1.

The majority of employees, 51, reported the possibility of exposure due to circumstances unrelated to district involvement, but tested negative. Sixteen employees tested positive, with 15 still currently in quarantine and five pending test results.

Executive Director of Human Resources Kathy Londow explained that each case is being assessed individually and the district is following the advice of doctors.

“When their physician releases them, they can come back to work,” Londow said. “They must have a statement from their physician, which is what we do with any time off that is more than three days.”

Londow said employees need a negative test results before being allowed to return to work.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention changed the coronavirus quarantine rules two days ago citing that positive individuals only need to quarantine for 10 days after the onset of symptoms instead of the original 14.

Asymptomatic patients can end isolation 10 days after the date of their first positive test.

PAISD staff and employees who need to quarantine throughout the school year may do so under the policy of Families First FMLA Leave Expansion and Emergency Paid Sick Leave.

Londow said the Families First Coronavirus Response Act requires employers to provide their employees with paid sick leave and expanded family medical leave for specific reasons relating to COVID-19.

“The provisions that we offer began April 1 and will continue through Dec. 31,” she said. “Unless something changes.”

The two types of benefits offered in the package include extended sick leave for the individual employee and extended sick leave for a family member with COVID-19.

Employees can use up to 80 hours of pay if they test positive or are exposed to the coronavirus and need to be tested.

Once the 80 hours is used, an employee may be eligible for the Extended Family Leave Act, which protects their job and gives the ability to use additional leave time to be paid during recovery.

PAISD Superintendent Mark Porterie said: “We want to help employees as much as possible when they are negatively affect by COVID. The acts are there to assist our employees who are in need.”

Cassandra Jenkins is a news reporter for Port Arthur Newsmedia. She can be reached at cassie.jenkins@panews.com.