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Health department reduces quarantine, isolation times for school students and staff to 5 days

Sophia McCullough

The state Department of Health is reducing COVID-19 isolation and quarantine times for K-12 schools. The updated guidance is closely aligned with new recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Isolation applies to those who have been infected with the coronavirus, and quarantine applies to people who may have been exposed.

For isolation, students and staff who test positive for COVID-19 or have symptoms should isolate for five days regardless of their vaccination status. They can return to school when all of the following conditions are met:

  • Five full days have passed since symptoms first appeared or since their positive test was conducted.
  • No fever for 24 hours.
  • No symptoms or symptoms have improved.

For quarantine, students and staff who have been in close contact with a COVID-19 positive individual should quarantine for five days after their last contact. Testing on the fifth day even with no symptoms is recommended. Quarantine applies to the following groups:

  • The person did not complete their primary vaccine series (two doses of Pfizer or Moderna, or one dose of Johnson & Johnson)
  • The person is 18 or older and completed primary but did not get the recommended booster when eligible

Quarantine is not required for the following:

  • Students ages 5-17 who completed their primary vaccine series
  • Students and staff 18 and older who received their primary vaccine series and boosters

DOH defines close contact in school as being within 3 feet of someone with COVID-19 for 15 minutes or more.

State Epidemiologist Dr. Sarah Kemble says quarantine and isolation times are being reduced because the Omicron variant is likely to have a shorter infection period, and schools have low infection rates compared to other community environments such as an office.

Prior to winter break, there were 82 COVID-19 cases across public schools, with a rate of 1.6%.

The state Department of Education has reported more than 2,700 COVID positive cases across its system since the second semester started on Jan. 4.

Zoe Dym was a news producer at Hawaiʻi Public Radio.
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