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ODH updates school mask-wearing and quarantine guidance ahead of anticipated vaccine authorization for kids

The updated guidance is in part due to the COVID information school districts provide to the state weekly, as well as potential vaccine eligibility for younger kids.

TOLEDO, Ohio — The Ohio Department of Health (ODH) is making some changes to quarantine guidelines for schools and COVID-19 exposures.

This comes just one day before the FDA is expected to meet about vaccines for kids ages 5 to 11.

The changes to the guidance are in part due to the COVID-19 information school districts provide to the state weekly, as well as potential vaccine authorization for younger kids.

RELATED: With 28 million kids likely eligible for COVID vaccines soon, here's the roll out plan

The biggest changes to the guidance are mask-wearing and COVID-19 testing.

It's important to note this updated guidance is not mandatory. School districts can decide to use all of it, parts of it or none of it depending on their circumstances and how the virus is spreading in their community.

"Protecting children remains paramount, but so does keeping them in school," said ODH Chief Medical Officer Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff.

When it comes to COVID-19 exposures, students can remain in the classroom if they wear a mask for 14 days. 

They can stop after a week if they are not showing symptoms or provide a negative test between five and seven days after exposure.

For athletes, the new recommendation if they've been exposed is to test on game days.

"We are offering an in-school alternative to out-of-school quarantining for students and staff who are exposed to COVID-19 in school settings and school-related activities," he said.

This comes as some local schools have had a difficult time with COVID-19 and quarantines.

"Given that there are no requirements for people to wear masks in the city, it was really difficult to get to those students here and keep them safe here without it spreading", The Maritime Academy of Toledo superintendent Aaron Lusk said.

The school recently updated guidelines and increased COVID-19 screenings and communication.

Lusk says they haven't had any new cases in two weeks.

"Our report to the health department was like a gasp. It was one of the best things because it has not been easy and I've been an educator for 17 years," Lusk said.

All of this also comes in anticipation of younger students possibly getting their first doses of the vaccine.

ODH leaders say keeping kids in school is important and the best way to do that is the vaccine.

"The simple fact is that vaccinated students are by and large not the students that are ending up hospitalized. they are not ending up with the tragic cases that we're seeing of multi-system inflammatory syndrome of children," Vanderhoff continued. 

These new guidelines only apply to people who have been exposed in a school setting.

Regular CDC quarantine guidance still applies for people exposed outside of school.