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As we return to school this week, the state has implemented new school quarantine guidance changes as part of the State COVID-19 School Manual.
These changes became effective on January 4, 2021. Please note that this new guidance is ONLY for K-12 public, private, and charter schools. There are two main areas addressed by these updates.
- Thresholds for discussing phase changes, and
- School quarantine practices.
Phase Change Discussion Thresholds
The new guidance from the state identifies thresholds that will initiate a conversation with the County Health Department about the possibility of enacting phase changes. The new thresholds are as follows:
- For schools with a student and staff population OVER 1,500 students, the outbreak threshold is 1% of the school population.
- For schools with a student and staff population UNDER 1,500 students, the outbreak threshold is 15 positive cases over the previous 14 days.
Wearing face masks has been shown to reduce the spread of COVID-19 in schools and the number of students and teachers on quarantine.
The new guidance states that students, teachers, or employees who were exposed to someone with COVID-19 at school DO NOT have to quarantine if:
· The school can verify that both people were wearing face masks (the person who was exposed and the person who tested positive) as defined by state public health order, and
· The person who was exposed does not have any symptoms of COVID-19.
If at any time during the 14 days after their exposure a student, teacher, or employee develops symptoms of COVID-19, he or she should isolate and get tested right away. If the person does not have symptoms, he or she should wait 7 days after they were exposed to get tested.
Students, teachers, or employees who were not wearing a mask at the time of exposure or who were exposed to someone who was not wearing a mask may end quarantine:
- On day 10 without a COVID-19 test. If a person does not have symptoms of COVID-19, they can end quarantine 10 days after the last time they had close contact with the person who tested positive.
- On day 7 with a negative test result. A person can get tested on day 7 of their quarantine period (They must wait at least 7 days after the exposure to be tested). The test can be a PCR or rapid antigen test. They can end quarantine if their test is negative and they do not have any symptoms of COVID-19 but must continue to quarantine until they get the test results back.
Students, teachers, or employees who live with someone who tests positive for COVID-19 must quarantine for 10 days from the last day of exposure to the person who tested positive. They must finish the entire 10-day quarantine, even if they receive a negative COVID test and/or don’t have symptoms.
Anyone who was exposed to the virus needs to watch for symptoms until it has been 14 days since they were last exposed, even if they have returned to in-person learning or work.
What does wearing a face mask correctly mean?
The school is responsible for verifying that face masks were worn correctly at the time of the exposure. This means the person who tests positive and the person who came into close contact with them were both wearing a face mask correctly, as outlined in the state public health order.
A face mask that is worn correctly must:
· Cover the nose and mouth without openings that can be seen through.
· Be made of synthetic or natural fabrics.
· Secure under the chin.
· Fit snugly against the nose and sides of the face.
· Not have exhalation valves or vents.
As always, please remember to do your part by social distancing and washing your hands often.
Thank you for your continued patience and understanding during this difficult time.