More area students ordered into quarantine has governor calling for new testing

As more area school districts prepare to revive in-person classes later this month, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine says some school leaders are concerned about overly strict coronavirus quarantine regulations keeping too many healthy students at home.

Last week, half of Butler County’s 10 public school systems announced they plan to resume normal class schedules despite some concerns about possible coronavirus spread.

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As part of their return, the state requires mandatory quarantining of students who may have come into contact with any classmate who has tested positive.

Lakota and Mason schools have recently reported their high schools seeing an increase in the number of students ordered into precautionary quarantine. The required two-week quarantine at home has already forced many students who were later found to be uninfected by coronavirus to miss in-person classes, sports and other school-related activities while learning from home.

DeWine announced plans for extensive testing at 10 Ohio schools – yet to be picked – of students who are ordered into quarantine due to “close contact” to a classmate who was found to have tested positive for coronavirus.

Ohio health officials are reluctant to change current policy without more data, he said.

“So we’re going to go out and try to get some data,” he said of the coming experiment, which has no start date.

“We’ve heard from many superintendents about the number of students who are meeting the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) definition of close contact and they are being put into quarantine,” said DeWine.

“You might have high school student in class. It’s determined they have covid and then they (school and health officials) go back and determine who was seated within six feet” of the infected students and those surrounding students are then ordered into 14-day quarantine according to CDC guidelines, he said.

Surrounding students – who were within six feet for at least 15 minutes - now must be quarantined whether the infected student – or them - were wearing protective masks.

“We’re going to see if they (students near by) do in fact come down with covid,” he said.

At Lakota East High School one student tested positive Monday - and through contact tracing methods – 61 students were forced into quarantine for two weeks.

“This is based on guidance from the Butler County Health Department on identifying close contacts in the student’s classes, at lunch and any extracurricular activities, which is defined as being within 6 feet for 15 minutes or more, with or without a mask,” said Betsy Fuller, spokeswoman for the 16,800-student district.

During the week of Sept. 28 through Oct. 2, Mason High School, which is Ohio’s most populous high school with more than 3,000 students, reported four students confirmed positive with 113 students ordered into quarantine.

DeWine said “we have heard anecdotally that most quarantined students are not getting sick. I feel that it is important to have data and evidence on this before we make a change to the recommended guidance.”

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