As Oklahoma witnesses a significant escalation in COVID-19 cases, it is critical for our children and families that schools remain open and safely offer face-to-face instruction to ensure the mental well-being of students and guard against any further learning loss.
Sensible COVID mitigation practices help in these efforts, and so school districts should be aware of new guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) regarding quarantine and isolation.
Specifically, the updated guidance has shortened the recommended periods of isolation (when an individual tests positive for COVID) and quarantine (when an individual has been in close contact with a positive exposure).
The guidance states:
“Given what we currently know about COVID-19 and the Omicron variant, CDC is shortening the recommended time for isolation for the public. People with COVID-19 should isolate for 5 days and if they are asymptomatic or their symptoms are resolving (without fever for 24 hours), follow that by 5 days of wearing a mask when around others to minimize the risk of infecting people they encounter…
“Additionally, CDC is updating the recommended quarantine period for anyone in the general public who is exposed to COVID-19. For people who are unvaccinated or are more than six months out from their second mRNA dose … and not yet boosted, CDC now recommends quarantine for 5 days followed by strict mask use for an additional 5 days.”—CDC (Dec. 27, 2021)
Hopefully, this modified guidance can significantly reduce disruption to instruction and make it easier for districts to ensure a safe learning environment.
Moreover, the Oklahoma State Department of Education, in collaboration with the Oklahoma State Department of Health, has resources to help keep schools open safely. The Oklahoma Schools COVID-19 Prevention Project 723 provides free, in-school COVID testing to students. Participation is optional and is open for students with parental permission. Participating schools are also eligible to receive reimbursement for other supplies to implement COVID mitigation strategies.
The state’s COVID cases have nearly doubled since most students were last in the classroom in mid-December. Commonsense vigilance is helpful. By following CDC’s recommended guidance on isolation and quarantine, we can start 2022 on the right track for our students, families and staff.
Joy Hofmeister State Superintendent of Public Instruction