The preventative measures call for regular testing and monitoring symptoms for both fully vaccinated and unvaccinated students in districts where masking is mandatory among students that were exposed. Quarantine protocols are strongly urged among districts where students don't have to wear masks and exposure is reported.
The updated safety guidelines follow a sudden uptick in COVID-19 outbreaks in Michigan schools that were reported this week. On Tuesday, the health department reported 26 more outbreaks at K-12 schools.
"When layered prevention strategies such as masking, distancing, testing, isolation and quarantine are applied consistently, school-associated transmission of COVID-19 is significantly reduced – which keeps kids in the classroom so they can learn," said Elizabeth Hertel, MDHHS director. "However, if someone is exposed to COVID at schools, it’s important for them to follow quarantine guidance to prevent spread to other children."
The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services implored local health agencies to work with schools to quickly isolate COVID-19 cases among students and staff. While quarantine policies should be enacted, modifications to them can be made if masking and social distancing rules are already followed at the district.
When students can remain in school
If a fully vaccinated student was exposed to a Covid-positive student, regardless of whether they were wearing a mask, should remain in school if they wear a mask and monitor their symptoms for 14 days.
They should also get tested three to five days after the initial exposure. Only if the student tests positive should they isolate at home and follow directions from their health department.
If an unvaccinated student who was masked at the time of exposure of an infected student also wearing a mask and they were separated by at least three feet, the student should remain in school if they wear a mask and monitor their symptoms.
Things change if both students were masked but were in an indoor setting and were less than three feet apart. The exposed student should remain in school if they wear a mask and monitor their symptoms for 14 days and get tested daily for the next seven days. If they can't get daily testing, they should isolate at home.
When students should quarantine
Vaccinated students that test positive after being exposed should be at home. For students that are unvaccinated and there were no masks being worn between both parties, they should not remain at school.
They could return after 10 days of not showing symptoms and should continue monitoring for them for 14 days.
The exposed student could also return to school after day seven if they test negative for COVID-19 and don't have symptoms.
Unvaccinated students who were masked and exposed to a COVID-positive student while indoors without social distancing at least three feet and does not get tested daily should not remain at school.
Masks in schools
Some 40% of the state's students go to school in districts where mandatory mask policies are in effect. That includes some of the most populated regions like Wayne, Oakland, Washtenaw, and Ingham counties.
Health officials have long recommended masks in schools since many students are not old enough to get vaccinated.
The federal government has yet to grant emergency approval to any of the available vaccines for kids under the age of 12.
The health department released new outbreak info this week, reporting 31 new incidents at schools over the last week. That includes 26 at K-12 schools and two at universities.
Multiple districts in Oakland County reported outbreaks, as well as some football players at a Detroit high school.
Class began for most districts last week and this week.