ALBANY, N.Y. (WWTI) — This year, being deemed as a close COVID-19 contact in schools is based on many factors. This can include physical distancing, whether the individual is a student or employee, the age of the individual, vaccination status, or where a COVID-19 exposure potentially took place.
Regardless, the process can be confusing. Below is a breakdown of how a student or employee may be considered a close contact in school this fall. Each breakdown is based on the setting where a COVID-19 exposure took place.
In this setting, an individual is required to quarantine if they were within six feet of another individual positive for the coronavirus, for 15 minutes or more in a 24-hour period and are not fully vaccinated. If the individual is fully vaccinated and does not present symptoms, they will not be required to quarantine. However, the CDC recommends these individuals get tested for COVID after exposure.
In an instructional setting, these guidelines apply to exposures that occur from adults to students, adults to adults, and students to adults. Regarding student-to-student contacts, quarantine requirements are dependent on if the student is fully vaccinated against the coronavirus if the student was masked consistently and correctly and the physical distance between students.
Specifically, as long as a student was wearing a mask properly, is fully vaccinated, and is not displaying COVID-19 symptoms, they will not be required to quarantine. If not fully vaccinated, the student will still be required to quarantine and testing is recommended.
For those who were wearing masks properly, a student is deemed a close contact if they were less than three feet from the COVID-19 case for 15 minutes or more over 24 hours. If not wearing masks properly, a student is considered a close contact with another student if within six feet of the case for the same amount of time.
Regarding close contacts on transportation, close contacts are first decided by if the length of time the case and the individual were on the bus was 15 minutes or more over 24 hours. This includes loading times. If this timeframe is 15 minutes or more and the individual was not sitting within six feet of the COVID case, then the individual is not required to quarantine.
However, quarantine is required if the individual is within six feet and is not fully vaccinated. If fully vaccinated, but testing is recommended. If fully vaccinated and symptomatic, the individual will be excluded from school and will receive direction from the local health department. On school transportation, consistent and correct mask usage is required for the entire loading, transport, and disembarking process. Windows are recommended to be open or cracked for the entire duration.
Similarly, in lunchroom settings, close contacts are determined by physical distance and duration an individual is within six feet of a COVID-19 case. If an individual is within six feet of a case for 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period and is fully vaccinated, they are not required to quarantine unless symptomatic. If symptomatic, the individual will be excluded from school and will receive direction from the local health department.
For those not fully vaccinated and within a COVID-19 case for 15 minutes or more, quarantine will be required and testing is recommended. These algorithms are being used to identify individuals who require isolation, quarantine, or exclusion after potential exposure. Decisions at this time are made following review from local health departments.