Not the right time to reduce student quarantine
School officials say most districts will adhere to the New Jersey Department of Health’s looser guidelines regarding how long a COVID-positive student or teacher should stay out of the classroom, but wonders if this greater leeway is coming at the worst possible time. .
“Omicron is much more transmissible than earlier variants of the SARS-CoV-2 virus,” Stanley Weiss, an epidemiologist at Rutgers School of Public Health and Rutgers New Jersey Medical School, told New Jersey 101.5. “For the general public, I think it was premature to relax the restrictions until we got more scientific data.”
According to Weiss, reducing exclusion time for students and school staff will lead to further spread of omicron variant infections, especially if other protective measures are not taken seriously.
Following recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which suggest that COVID-19 is most transmissible early in infection, NJDOH has revised guidelines declare that people who test positive for the virus, including students and school staff, can leave their homes after 5 days, instead of 10, if they do not show symptoms, regardless of their vaccination status.
These individuals are advised to continue wearing a face covering until Day 10 – masks must still be worn indoors at all New Jersey schools.
School districts are not required to reduce quarantine times, but many should take the step if they haven’t already.
“Most districts will adhere to the reduced guidelines to maintain continued education for their students as much as possible,” Richard Bozza, executive director of the New Jersey Association of School Administrators, told New Jersey 101.5. “I think you’ll see more districts adopting ‘test to stay’ protocols as well to shorten the five-day quarantine period and keep kids in school.”
If schools are to go the route of a reduced quarantine period, Weiss said, they also need to reevaluate their ventilation systems; getting suitable and adequate masks into the hands of students; and increasing social distancing in some situations, given the higher transmission rate of the omicron variant. Weiss said increasing COVID-19 vaccination rates is also crucial.
“They are all critically important. One, I think, is insufficient,” Weiss said.
Contact reporter Dino Flammia at [email protected]
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