RALEIGH — In the final days of 2021, the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services updated the guidance for the state’s K-12 schools to conform with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s recently shortened quarantine timeframes.
The StrongSchoolsNC Toolkit (SST) was updated on Dec. 30 and the majority of changes were made in the section dealing with quarantining processes. That section, titled “Handling Possible, Suspected, Presumptive, or Confirmed Positive Cases of COVID-19,” was revamped to bring the quarantine days down from 10 to five across the three exclusion-from-school categories of diagnosis, symptoms and exposure.
There was no change to guidance related to skipping quarantine so long as all parties involved were “appropriately and consistently” wearing masks regardless of vaccination status. According to the SST, this only applies “to exposures in classrooms, other in-school settings, and school transportation” but not for “exposures during extracurricular activities, including athletic activities.”
If one or both of the parties was unmasked and unvaccinated when exposure occurred, there is a five-day quarantine period before returning to school if they are asymptomatic and they are required to complete five days of “strict mask use.” This includes anymore more than six months out from their second mRNA dose, or two months for a J&J dose, and those eligible for booster but not yet boosted.
Vaccinated persons don’t have to quarantine if they have had no symptoms after being a close contact to someone with COVID-19 and aren’t living in a congregate setting like a group shelter.
The SST also maintains that no person is required to show proof of a negative test in order to return to school. Similarly, a health care provider is not required to give any specifics of an alternate diagnosis.
The exemption from quarantine for persons who have tested antibody positive within 3 months before or immediately after a close contact has been removed in the Dec. 30 update.
With regards to guidance on masks, the Dec. 7 version uses the section-title “Cloth Face Coverings,” but the word “Cloth” been dropped in the Dec. 30 update. The text of the section on masks remains unchanged.
The public can compare the two versions of the SST using these links on the Internet WayBack Machine: