State officials are making a change to the guidelines for quarantining students and staff in schools who’ve been exposed to someone who’s tested positive for Covid-19.
State medical director Dr. Caitlin Pedati says if the person with Covid and those who were around them have consistently worn a face mask, only those with symptoms or who’ve tested positive will have to quarantine for two weeks.
“Now the (Centers for Disease Control) does currently still recommend that individuals who’ve been in close contact should quarantine even if they’re wearing face coverings,” she says. “However…we’ve gotten some information from here in Iowa as well as from some of our neighboring states that help us to adjust our current recommendation.”
Pedati says she reviewed Covid case counts in four school districts in northwest Iowa’s Sioux County. The three districts where face coverings were not required had between 30 to 130 percent more Covid cases among students and staff. Pedati says these new state guidelines on quarantining do not apply to residential facilities, like a nursing home, but are recommendations for other settings, like a business or child care center.
“Individuals when the case and the close contact have been wearing a face covering consistently and correctly for the entire time will not need to self-quarantine at home,” Pedati says. “However, we’ll still want them to self-monitor which means wearing your face covering and keeping a close eye on your symptoms.”
Governor Kim Reynolds says the change is being made after superintendents from across the state “expressed frustration” about how many students and staff have had to be quarantined.
“In some situations, they’re having to quarantine a disproportionately high number of students when just a few positive cases have been identified,” Reynolds says.
According to the governor, these adjustments for Iowa schools are similar to new guidelines for Nebraska and Wyoming schools.
“A reasonable change that will make a positive difference as schools continue to adapt to this challenging a very fluid situation,” she says.
The state’s medical director also cited a study in Missouri that found none of the 139 customers who were around two hair dressers who had Covid got the virus because all were wearing masks.
The Iowa Public Health Association has issued a statement, calling on the governor “to provide the public health evidence that supporters her new guidance that diminishes the role of quarantine in the effort to stop the spread of the pandemic in Iowa.” The Iowa State Education Association’s president calls the new guidelines “cloudy information that’s not based in science.”