Component 3B: Risk Mitigation

After a wastewater sample or a surface swab samples comes back positive for COVID-19, it is very important to decrease COVID-19 risk until a positive person is found and removed sent home or until the wastewater or surface samples return to all negatives. 

After a surface swab or wastewater sample comes back positive, the amount of time it takes  for when a responsive testing team will show up to test can range from as short a time period as the following day to several days after the positive environmental sample. Whether a positive is found just before a weekend, or is discovered late in the evening, can affect when the responsive testing is scheduled. While waiting for responsive testing, schools and family homes could be at risk for the virus continuing to circulate unless strategies are not put into place to reduce the risk.

How does it work?

Until the person who is infected is found or surface samples show up negative for at least 2 days, school/childcare sites and families will need to take extra precautions to protect their loved ones and communities. Mitigating risks mean staying vigilant and reducing close interactions with other people as best as possible.

Best practices for schools/childcare centers to mitigate risks

There are several important steps that can be taken to protect students and staff at school or childcare centers while waiting for responsive testing:

  • Improve health screening of students and staff. 
  • Move classes outdoors so that there is more physical distancing and better airflow.
  • Open doors and windows in rooms that have a positive surface sample to increase airflow.  
  • Give clear and specific messaging to encourage behavior change for students, their families, and staff. Create health communication materials (or use our templates) and send out these materials via all possible ways such as text, phone call, email, social media, physical flyer, or posters on campus.
  • Maximize space between students – at least 6 feet away from one another. 
  • Limit nonessential visitors and communal activities 
  • Limit cohort mixing 
  • All students and staff should double mask or wear KN95 masks indoors

Best practices for families to mitigate risks

There are several important steps that can be taken to protect household members at home while waiting for responsive testing:

  • Students and staff double mask indoors.
  • Encourage all family members to get tested.
  • Encourage more hand washing, covering mouth when coughing or sneezing, don’t touch the eyes, mouth, or nose, and reduce the amount of items or surfaces shared between household members
  • Watch for fever, cough, shortness or breath, or other symptoms of COVID-19. Remember that symptoms can appear 2-14 days after exposure to COVID-19.


  • Access to personal protective equipment (PPE)
  • A staff member assigned to health communication for the school/childcare site


  • These are all strategies that can reduce the chance of the virus spreading but there is no guarantee that these will fully stop the virus from spreading in a school/childcare site or in a household.


  • Labor costs for school/childcare staff to communicate with families.
  • Cost of physical flyers for health communication
  • Increased cost for sanitation supplies

Communication Resources

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