The Indiana Department of Education has updated its guidelines to help school officials and parents decide how schools can reopen safely during the coronavirus pandemic.
Nearly 2,000 students and school employees in the state have tested positive for COVID-19 so far this school year, according to new data from the Indiana State Department of Health released Wednesday.
And that number doesn’t include those who are quarantining due to being close contacts of someone who tested positive, whether that person was at school or elsewhere.
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But knowing which students should stay home to stop the spread of the coronavirus when isn’t always easy. Here are five things families need to know:
CDC guidance sets the tone.
The state department of health follows guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention when it comes to how children and their families should quarantine, Megan Wade-Taxter, a spokesperson for the department told IndyStar.
And county health departments use that CDC and state guidance as they work with school districts to determine processes for who should be in school buildings.
As the pandemic continues, guidance from the CDC, and in turn, state and local health officials, is changed and updated. And that means new guidance is given to schools to use.
One example is the list of symptoms that families should screen for daily. Here’s the updated list:
- fever or chills
- sore throat
- cough or shortness of breath (for those with allergic/asthmatic cough, a change from the baseline)
- diarrhea, nausea, vomiting or stomach pain
- new loss of taste or smell
These are the reasons to stay home.
Students should stay home if they tested positive for COVID-19, are waiting on test results or have symptoms of COVID-19, per guidance from the state health department.
Additionally, students should stay home if they are identified as a close contact of someone who tested positive or if someone they live with is a close contact and has symptoms or tests positive.
Quarantining applies within a home.
If a student is quarantining, that means they are not sick but were exposed to someone who was, so they are staying away from others as to not spread the virus.
But it’s not just about staying home and away from classmates, it’s also about staying away from family members as well to reduce the risk of them before the student knows they are sick.
Per state guidelines, students who are quarantining — as well as those who are isolating due to testing positive — should stay away from others in the household as much as possible and that includes not sharing utensils or bathrooms if possible and wearing masks.
What siblings should do is tricky.
When a student is staying home due to COVID-19, that doesn’t always mean their siblings should do the same.
If a student has symptoms but hasn’t been tested, their siblings don’t have to stay home from school. But, if there is a “significant concern for COVID-19,” state guidance says siblings and others in the household can consider staying home.
And if the student with symptoms is also a close contact of someone who tested positive, then others in their household should act as if they are close contacts too. However, if a student is a close contact and doesn’t have symptoms, their siblings don’t need to quarantine.
And if one person in a household tests positive — whether they were a close contact of someone else or not — anyone in their house is considered a close contact and should follow the guidelines for those deemed close contacts.
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