The Indiana state health department is relaxing COVID quarantine guidance for schools, but some schools are sticking with the old system.
Until now, close contacts of students or staff who test positive had to quarantine for at least a week — it’s two weeks unless they get a negative test and wear a mask. But updated guidance issued on Wednesday says if a school has and enforces a mask requirement all day, contacts don’t have to quarantine unless they develop symptoms.
The rule for anyone who tests positive is unchanged: you have to quarantine for 10 days, and go at least a full day without symptoms.
Indiana Association of Public School Superintendents associate director Robert L. Taylor says schools appreciate the additional flexibility. He says quarantines have been an even bigger factor than rising infection rates in driving absentee rates as high as 60% in some schools. At least five school districts have returned to online classes in at least one building because so many students or teachers were absent.
But Taylor says the school districts he’s talked to are divided between those who are embracing the new rule and those sticking with the stricter quarantine rule, at least for now.
In Hamilton County, for instance, both the Noblesville Schools and the Westfield-Washington Schools already have mask mandates. Within hours of the new guidance, Noblesville announced it would revise its quarantine rules accordingly, while Westfield announced it would keep the stricter standard in place while it confers with principals, administrators, and doctors at Riverview Health.
State health commissioner Kristina Box hinted at the change last week, pointing to a Duke University study which found North Carolina schools which required masks had a COVID transmission rate of less than two-percent.
More than 10,000 K-12 students across Indiana have tested positive for COVID-19 in the last three weeks, about a quarter of the total for all of last year.