AMARILLO, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) — The spring semester of the 2021-22 school year in the Texas Panhandle began with the closures of various schools and districts related to the recent increase of COVID-19 cases throughout the region. Further, discourse spread in the last week after updated CDC guidelines brought questions as to whether extracurricular activities in school districts would be canceled as a COVID-19 precaution.
With those recent closures, some confusion has remained regarding the current guidelines for isolation and quarantine among students and staff after either contracting COVID-19 or being exposed.
According to the recently updated CDC guidelines, any person who comes into close contact with COVID-19 should quarantine if:
- They are 18 and older and are vaccinated but have not received a booster shot;
- They have received the single-dose Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine more than two months ago and have not had a booster shot;
- They have not completed the initial dose course of a vaccine.
However, Texas public school districts are currently following the Texas Education Agency (TEA) guidelines for COVID-19 exposure, isolation and quarantine. MyHighPlains.com has compiled a look at the most recent policy from the TEA, which was updated on Jan. 7.
Any person who tests positive for COVID-19
According to the latest TEA guidance, for an individual, including students,teachers, staff and visitors, who has tested positive for COVID-19 and been in a school:
- The school must notify its local health department in accordance with federal, state and local law;
- Upon the information that any teacher, staff, student or visitor at a school is confirmed to have COVID-19, the school must submit a report to the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS);
- Consistent with school notification requirements for other community-spread diseases, the school must notify all teachers, staff and families of all students in a classroom or extracurricular or after-school program if a test-confirmed COVID-19 case is among students, teachers or staff who participated in those classrooms or cohorts.
COVID-19 isolation and quarantine for students
- School systems must exclude students from attending in-person school if they are actively sick with COVID-19, if they are suspected of being actively sick with COVID-19 or have received a positive test result for COVID-19. If that is determined on campus, the school must immediately notify parents.
- Parents must not send a child to school if the child has COVID-19 symptoms or is test-confirmed with COVID-19, until the re-entry conditions are met. More information on DSHS exclusion periods and returning to school can be found here.
- Symptomatic students must be excluded from in-person class until at least 10 days have past since symptoms began, until they are fever free and other symptoms have improved.
- Students who test positive for COVID-19 but do not have symptoms must stay home until at least 10 days after the day they were tested.
Students who are close contacts
- For students who are determined to be close contacts and are not experiencing symptoms, the stay-at-home period has been updated to 10 days. If no subsequent testing is performed and no symptoms are present, the stay-at-home period can end for students on day 10 after exposure.
- Students can end the stay-at-home period earlier if they receive a negative result from a PCR acute infection test after the close contact exposure ends.
COVID-19 isolation and quarantine for teachers and staff
As is required with students, school systems must exclude staff from attending school in person who are actively sick with COVID-19, who are suspected of being actively sick with COVID-19, or who have tested positive for COVID-19.
According to recent updates from the CDC, staff may return to school when:
- If symptomatic, at least five days have passed since symptom onset, they are fever free, and other symptoms have improved.
- For those with no symptoms, at least five days after the day they tested positive.
For staff who are considered close contacts with a person with a confirmed case of COVID-19, some do not need to stay home:
- Those who are 18 years and older and have received all recommended vaccine doses, including boosters and additional primary shots for some immunocompromised people.
- Those who have had a confirmed positive COVID-19 case within the last 90 days and has fully recovered.
For those who are considered close contact and are not exempt from quarantine requirements, the TEA recommended that schools require staff to remain off campus during the stay-at-home period. However, this is a local employment policy decision. If the staff continue to work on campus, the TEA said that rapid testing must be performed periodically for five days after exposure.
MyHighPlains.com has reached out to officials with the TEA regarding clarification on the reasoning behind quarantine protocols for students, teachers and staff. This story will be updated if officials respond to the request for comment.