COLUMBUS, Ohio — The state of Ohio has updated its quarantine guidance for schools when it comes to COVID-19 exposure with the goal of keeping more students in the classroom. The changes were announced during a Monday press conference with Ohio Department of Health Director Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff.
“While vaccination and mask usage are critical components of ensuring a safe school environment to support in-school learning, we’re offering an in-school alternative to out-of-school quarantine to students and staff who are exposed to COVID-19 in school settings and school-related activities," Dr. Vanderhoff said.
The changes incorporate mask wearing and testing to reduce the chance of spread of COVID-19 and to provide a safe alternative to out-of-school quarantine.
"Schools are not required to adopt these policies and parents can opt out if they desire," Dr. Vanderhoff noted.
The new guidance has two major focal points.
MASK TO STAY
“It applies to participation in the classroom following a COVID-19 exposure in a school setting or another school-related activity," Dr. Vanderhoff said.
Direct contacts, regardless of vaccination or masking status, may remain in the classroom environment if they do the following:
- Wear a mask for 14 days after their last date of exposure.
- Self-monitor or parent-monitor for symptoms of COVID-19.
- Isolate and get tested if they start to experience symptoms associated with COVID-19.
Students and staff may discontinue these quarantine procedures after seven days if they meet two basic criteria: They don’t develop any symptoms and they test negative between days five and seven.
TEST TO PLAY
“Applies to participation in extracurricular activities following exposure in the classroom or school-related environment," Dr. Vanderhoff explained. "Asymptomatic contacts may continue to participate in extracurricular activities if they wear a mask when able.”
He said testing should be done on initial notification of exposure to COVID-19 and again between days five and seven.
“If they’re negative at that time, between days five and seven, they of course qualify to test out of quarantine after day seven and can resume normal activities.”
The tests can be either a PCR or antigen test. It should not be an over-the-counter, self-monitored test.
“School districts should consider same-day testing for athletic competitions where there’s potential of school-to-school exposure," Dr. Vanderhoff added.
Dr. Vanderhoff said those exposed to COVID-19 outside of school, however, should follow standard quarantine guidelines that exist today.
“As a reminder, those who consistently wear masks in school and those who are fully vaccinated, can already remain in the classroom if they’re exposed to COVID-19 in a school setting.”
Before the 2021-22 school year began, the Ohio Department of Health issued guidance to help with quarantine decisions “after a student or adult contact is exposed to someone with COVID-19 in the classroom setting.”
That previously released guidance suggested various safety protocols in an effort to decrease exposure and need for quarantine, which included recommending masks for students and staff regardless of vaccination status, physical distancing of at least three feet, increased ventilation and enhanced cleaning strategies.