NC changes guidelines on students quarantining after COVID-19 exposure

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services has modified its guidance on quarantining students.

Now, the guidance states that if a student has a close COVID-19 contact in a North Carolina public school, the student won't need to quarantine if both students used face masks correctly and other prevention strategies were in place such as physical distancing and increased ventilation.

NCDHHS Deputy Secretary Susan Gale Perry explained during Thursday's state board of education meeting.

"This is a really important change and a big deal for schools that want to keep kids in in-person learning and not have them having to quarantine due to exposure ... but what the critical component here is that mask-wearing for students, and I do want to be clear that this exception does not apply to teachers and staff or other adults, and in the indoor classroom setting because we don't have data about the efficacy of that right now, but that is a significant shift in our quarantine protocol," Gale Perry said.

She stated that local health directors and the state health director have the authority to give control measures including issuing isolation and quarantine orders.

The state's public health toolkit says schools should follow the recommendations of their local public health department regarding quarantine and that local public health authorities make the final decisions about how long quarantine should last in the communities they serve, based on local conditions and needs.

A spokeswoman for the Wake County Public School System said the district has not made an update to its quarantine guidance.

According to the district website, students must still quarantine ranging from 7 to 14 days if they've been exposed.

The state guidance says isolation is still required for anybody who has COVID-19 and those who are fully vaccinated and don't have symptoms still don't need to quarantine after a close contact.

One of Cary mom Suzanne Clayton's twin boys had to quarantine last spring after being exposed to COVID-19 at his middle school.

"He was back, I think, for like three days, and got exposed, and then was out for two weeks," Clayton said.

Clayton said it's important have kids in school. On the new state guidance, she said:

"So, you know, if that's what it takes to get the kids to stay in school. It was disastrous for my son to have to be out for two weeks, especially when everybody else had gone back. I mean he was really upset about it. His grades suffered because of it, having to go back remote when everybody was in the classroom. So I think, at all costs, the kids need to be in school, no matter what it takes."
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