State Making Modification To Quarantine Guidelines For Students

Oct 9, 2020, 6:03 AM | Updated: 8:22 pm

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – New COVID-related changes are coming for students and teachers as the Utah Department of Health announced they’re rolling out a new recommendation, which would allow students back into the classroom sooner than a two-week quarantine.

Health officials said the new guidelines were not a sign that they’re relaxing on COVID-19 safety measures in schools, but they’re looking to get those very low-risk students and teachers back into the classroom.

“I think the real key is that this is not shortening quarantine from 14 days to seven days,” said UDOH spokesperson Tom Hudachko.

Currently, a quarantine period lasts for 14 days, but under the new recommendation, students and staff who meet certain conditions could return as early as seven days after beginning their quarantine.

“The number of quarantine students has really presented a significant challenge to teachers, administrators and to parents,” Hudachko said.

Health officials said the recommendation is meant to help get teachers and students with a very low risk of contracting the virus back into the classroom sooner, without compromising their health.

Here are the conditions that have to be met:

  1. Students and staff have to be wearing a face mask at the time of exposure
  2. They need to wait at least seven days, and then take a COVID-19 test
  3. If the test comes back negative and they aren’t showing symptoms, they can go back to school

“This is providing an option for individuals who have a low-risk exposure to be tested at a time where we think they would be most likely to become symptomatic, and if they are negative and asymptomatic, to come back to class,” said Hudachko.

The Utah Education Association said the new guidelines are meant to push for proper mask use and testing.

“We do appreciate the fact that this modified or amended quarantine is going to require testing to return to school because that hasn’t been the case,” said Heidi Matthews, president of the Utah Education Association.

The new guidelines will impact hundreds of teachers and students currently in quarantine, especially in the Canyons and Alpine school districts.

“They’ve [Canyons and Alpine] had about 8,500 kids placed on quarantine since the beginning of the school, and fewer than 50 have tested positive for COVID-19,” Hudachko said.

According to Hudachko, 75% of people exposed to COVID-19 develop symptoms by day seven, and 90% develop symptoms by day nine.

“We also know that our testing can catch positive cases two days prior to someone becoming symptomatic, so we feel like by testing at day seven, we will capture 90% of individuals who would have become symptomatic,” Hudachko said.

Here is a breakdown of the students and teachers currently in quarantine in some of the state’s biggest school districts:

  • Jordan School District – 1,621
  • Granite School District – 988
  • Canyons School District – 520 (last 2 weeks)
  • Davis School District – 236
  • Weber School District – 585
  • Alpine School District 5,000 (since school year began)

Heidi Matthews said it’s a good step on the path to helping teachers.

“I see that as progress but not the full answer,” Matthew said.

It’s important to note that if all three requirements in the new guidelines aren’t met, students must wait 14 days to return to school. The new recommendations also only apply to cases where the exposure happened while at school.

The new guideline has been added to the state’s COVID-19 School Manual.

UDOH officials said the new guideline was a collaboration of the Student Health Work Group, which includes representatives from the Utah State Board of Education, the governor’s education advisor, state epidemiologist Dr. Angela Dunn, local health departments, pediatrics infectious disease doctors and the Utah Education Association.

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State Making Modification To Quarantine Guidelines For Students