The president of the St. Paul school board is back at work, having recovered from a case of COVID-19 that required a short hospital stay.
Jeannie Foster, 48, went to a hospital on October 22 and was later sent home to recover.
She missed three weeks of board meetings before returning Monday for a special meeting on the proposed school consolidation plan.
At another meeting Tuesday night, Foster said through coughing fits that she is no longer contagious.
Foster, who has asthma, said from the podium that she is “not a big vaccination person” and that she believes in people’s right to decide for themselves whether to get vaccinated or not. But she said she was fully vaccinated against the coronavirus before falling ill with a breakthrough case.
“I believe it saved my life,” she said on Tuesday. “I thought I was going to die, and I believe vaccinations saved my life.”
Foster has chaired the school board since board member Marny Xiong died of COVID-19 last year at age 31, before vaccines were available to the public.
Mary Langworthy, the school district’s health and wellness director, said on Tuesday that 68 percent of district employees said they have been fully vaccinated against the virus.
By order of the school board, unvaccinated workers should have weekly tests, and Langworthy said some discover they were infected but had no symptoms.
Langworthy said the high number of new coronavirus cases — cases, hospitalizations and deaths statewide are as high as they have been since vaccines became available — is making her think about changing protocols in the district.
St. Paul, she said, is one of the few metro districts that continues to work to identify the close contacts of students and staff who spend time in schools while infected. She’s not sure how long her staff can keep doing that contract-finding job.
Contract tracing has also forced more and more students to quarantine at home for 10 days. And some schools in the district, she said, have resorted to sending entire classes of students home.
The chances of those quarantined students being infected are “pretty low,” she acknowledged, “but we’re trying to reduce the spread.”
With vaccines widely available for children as young as 5, Langworthy said she will likely stop contact tracing in January.
Meanwhile, the school board agreed on Tuesday to continue to mandate face masks in schools for the foreseeable future, continuing a policy in place since the beginning of the year. Chief Inspector Joe Gothard said that while some districts elsewhere in the country are withdrawing their precautions, “it hasn’t even crossed my mind.”