Ohio’s new school COVID guidelines focus on keeping more people in class

Updated COVID-19 quarantine guidelines for schools released by the Ohio Department of Health Monday focus on students and staff exposed to the virus wearing face masks and getting tested to allow them to continue with classroom learning and school-related extracurriculars.

The Masks to Stay and Test to Play guidelines were created using information gathered from a pilot quarantine program in Warren County, as well as from local health departments and other programs outside of Ohio, said ODH Director Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff.

“I think this is an important step on our path to assuring the developmental needs of our K-12 students are met even as we work hard to protect them and their families and loved ones from the risk of COVID-19,” he said.

The guidelines are for students and staff who were exposed to COVID in a classroom setting or school-related activity. Those exposed to COVID-19 outside of school should continue to follow standard quarantine measures, Vanderhoff said.

Schools are not to required to adopt the state-issued guidelines and parents can opt out of them, he added.

Under Mask to Stay, students and and staff can continue with in-person learning after being directly exposed to COVID-19 in a school setting if they do the following:

  • Wear a mask for at least 14 days after the initial exposure date
  • Self-monitor or have a parent monitor for symptoms of COVID-19
  • Isolate and get tested if they show symptoms of COVID-19, regardless of the severity of symptoms
  • Students and staff and discontinue the quarantine procedures after seven days if don’t develop any symptoms and if they test negative for the virus between days five and seven from their exposure

Though parents and individuals are responsible for monitoring for symptoms under Mask to Stay, if school staff member or nurse sees someone showing symptoms for coronavirus, they should act accordingly, Vanderhoff said.

Test to Play permits students and staff to participate in extracurricular activities after being directly exposed to COVID in a school setting if they:

  • Wear a mask when able, such as while on a team bus, in the locker room or while on the sidelines or bench
  • Get tested for COVID-19 once they learn they were exposed to the virus
  • Test again between days five and seven following the initial exposure.
  • Students and staff and discontinue the quarantine procedures after seven days if they test negative between days five and seven

The Test to Play option focuses more on testing because it can be harder for participants to wear face masks and social distance during extracurricular activities, he added.

Students and staff can use either PCR or antigen tests, Vanderhoff said. However, the tests must be proctored or observed. He added with Test to Play, schools should consider same-day testing for athletic competitions.

ODH is sharing the updated guidelines with local health departments and school districts Monday, and schools can immediately begin implementation.

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