Ohio to Study Whether It's Necessary to Quarantine Students in Contact With COVID-19 Patients

Ohio to Study Whether It's Necessary to Quarantine Students in Contact With COVID-19 Patients
Empty coronavirus testing sites near the OhioHealth Pickerington Medical Campus in Columbus, Ohio, on July 31, 2020. (Matthew Hatcher/Getty Images)
Bill Pan

In an effort to avoid unnecessary interruptions of in-person learning in Ohio, Gov. Mike DeWine said the state is going to conduct a study to examine whether student quarantines are effective as expected.

During a press briefing on Tuesday, DeWine said many school administrators have expressed concern about large number of students being put into quarantine after they met the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) definition of "close contact" to someone with COVID-19.
The CDC currently defines close contact as any individual who was within six feet of an infected person for at least 15 minutes, starting from two days before illness onset until the time the patient is isolated. It also recommends people self-quarantine for 14 days after exposure, regardless of their COVID-19 test results.

DeWine noted that students would be sent to quarantine and kept at home, even though they wore masks in socially distanced classrooms. "Shouldn't that count for something?" he said. "We're looking into this."

"I've asked our team to partner with the health/scientific community to study the current guidance on student quarantine," the Republican governor said, adding that the state's health officials have been "very reluctant" to change its policy without more data.

According to DeWine, the state is planning to take 10 school districts of different demographics and run frequent strip COVID-19 tests of those students who would be quarantined for meeting the CDC's close contact criteria.

"Kids are missing out their school. Kids are missing out activities that they want to be involved," DeWine said. "Frankly, our medical experts do not feel that we can move out of this without data."

DeWine hoped that the rapid testing of students who came in contact with individuals infected by the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus could provide data needed to modify current safety guidelines.

"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," DeWine added.

Under an August order, all students in Ohio's public, private, and charter schools are required to wear masks. A few exceptions to the order include those who are unable to remove masks without assistance, and those with medical or psychological conditions that would be aggravated by wearing a mask, such as severe autism.

DeWine said at that time that the decision was made based on a letter from the Ohio Children's Hospital Association and the Ohio chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, in which the health experts recommended school-age children wear face coverings.
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