Governor DeWine announced that Ohio is changing its guidance regarding quarantines following an in-classroom exposure in K-12 schools. Moving forward, students and teachers exposed to a COVID-positive person in school are no longer required to quarantine as long as the exposure occurred in a classroom setting and all students/teachers were wearing masks and following other appropriate protocols.
The change follows an evaluation of virus spread in Ohio schools conducted by researchers with the Ohio Schools COVID-19 Evaluation Team. Preliminary results of the evaluation found no discernable difference in the risk of contracting the coronavirus between those in close contact with a COVID-positive person in the classroom and those who were farther away.
“This evaluation confirms for us that Ohio’s classrooms are a safe place for our students and that the commitment our schools have made to keeping kids safe in the classroom is working,” said Governor DeWine.
Schools should continue to require quarantines for exposed students in situations where masking and distancing protocols were not followed. The updated quarantine guidance does not apply to after-school activities, including sports.OSCE_evaluation
Impressions and Guidance for Interpretation
This pilot evaluation shows that it is feasible to engage with school districts and schools to assess the potential impact of alternative quarantine procedures for students. Despite substantial logistical challenges, the evaluation provides useful insights regarding the need for quarantine when both a student case and a close contact are wearing masks in supervised school settings. We must emphasize two critical points: (1) These data are preliminary—final analyses may provide different values and possibly interpretation; and (2) this pilot evaluation was not intended nor designed to provide the definitive answer regarding mask usage and quarantine in schools. In addition, the low rates of test positivity cannot be compared directly to the much higher community test positivity as testing in communities is often prompted by symptomatic illness.
This evaluation was performed in the context of a significant surge of COVID-19 cases across the State of Ohio. The percentage of positive test results observed in the comparison groups was high. This value suggests substantial transmission in the local communities of the school systems. Interpretation of the specific value must be made cautiously. The students in the comparison group underwent testing without any associated symptoms or indication for testing, other than participation in the evaluation. As a result, this percentage cannot be meaningfully compared to positivity rates observed in the local communities.
The percentages across the three groups (close contacts, in-class comparison, and other class comparison) were comparable. Also, the percentage in the close contact group was very close to the a priori value of 3%, above which we suggested that we would have concern for retaining those children in school during a quarantine period. Taken together, we do not identify any differences in the groups that would imply a mandatory, at-home quarantine was necessary for students who were close contacts with appropriate mask usage. But we must re-emphasize that these results are preliminary, and the evaluation was a pilot meant to inform school policy considerations. The evaluation was not designed or of a scale to answer school attendance questions definitively.
To restate, the Ohio Schools COVID-19 Evaluation could be done safely because of the mask and distancing protocols in the schools, combined with the testing program for close contact children. If future policies allow close contact children to remain in school, testing options must be carefully considered.Ohio Schools COVID-19 Evaluation December 20, 2020
The evaluation was conducted by the Ohio Schools COVID-19 Evaluation Team (OSCE), including the Ohio Colleges of Medicine Government Resource Center, The Ohio State University, Wright State University, Ohio University, and the Post Acute Rapid Response Team (PARRT, Central Ohio Geriatrics).
The full report from the Ohio Schools COVID-19 Evaluation Team will be released Jan. 29, 2021.
Why Ohio is changing its quarantine guidance for K-12 schools
Jake Ryle, WCPO |
Ohio’s Chief Medical Officer Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff pointed to two new studies, one done by researchers on the Ohio Schools COVID-19 Evaluation Team, that show the classroom might be safer than first thought.
“It shows the close contacts of children with COVID-19 were more likely to be family members and less likely to be classmates,” said Vanderhoff.
In one of the studies, which tested 728 children in seven school districts between Nov. 10 and Dec. 18, 524 children in a classroom were noted to be in “close contact” by CDC standards with someone with COVID-19. Others in the study were either further away in the same classroom or outside the classroom.
“There was no discernible difference in incidence rate in the exposed students, and the students who weren’t exposed,” in the two studies, according to Vanderhoff.
“I can’t express how big of a deal this is for schools because that was a huge barrier to us moving forward in a lot of ways.”Mason City School superintendent Jonathan Cooper, WLWT