With the school year now in full swing, teachers, students and parents are dealing with the realities of attending in-person classes in the midst of a pandemic.
And as cases from the delta variant of COVID-19 continue to climb, it can be difficult to gauge all of the different recommendations and advice for quarantining cases.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has issued guidance for COVID-19 prevention in K-12 schools this year, including a recommendation that in-person instruction is a "priority" for students this fall.
CDC guidance on exposure to COVID-19 in schools
In schools, the CDC recommends screening testing to help identify and isolate cases of COVID-19, quarantine those who may have been exposed and are not fully vaccinated and identify possible clusters to reduce the risk to in-person education.
If you're fully vaccinated, the CDC says you don't need to participate in screening testing, and don't have to quarantine if you don't have any symptoms.
What Ohio recommends for quarantining in K-12 schools
In August, the Ohio Department of Health created a flow chart with guidelines for students or adults quarantining after exposure to COVID-19 in K-12 classrooms.
In a statement when the quarantine guidelines were released, Ohio Department of Health Chief Medical Officer Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff said that in-person learning was important for the "cognitive, social and emotional development of our children.”
If a school has all of the below policies in place, individuals can remain in normal in-person classes and participate in extracurricular activities and sports, as long as they have no symptoms:
- Masking or students and staff, regardless of vaccination status;
- Strategies to maximize physical distancing (at least 3 feet between desks); and
- Documented COVID-19 prevention policies and procedures, including identification of individuals experiencing symptoms, strategies to increase ventilation and protocols for cleaning
If the school does not have those policies in place and the close contact is vaccinated, they still need to wear a mask indoors for either 14 days or until they receive a negative viral PCR or antigen tests three to five days after exposure. They can also remain in normal, in-person classrooms and participate in extracurricular activities and sports as long as they have no symptoms.
If they test positive, they need to isolate at least 10 days from the date of the positive test.
If the close contact is not vaccinated, did not consistently wear a mask and practice social distancing, they should not attend in-person school, participate in sports or extracurricular activities.
They can return to a normal classroom and extracurricular activities after seven days if they have received a negative viral PCR or antigen test performed at least five days after exposure.
If they test positive, they should isolate for at least 10 days from the date of the positive test.