New COVID-19 Quarantine Rules For Rhode Island Schools

·4 min read

PROVIDENCE, RI — Starting Monday, new COVID-19 safety will go into effect in Rhode Island schools, the Department of Education and Gov. Dan McKee announced Thursday. The changes align with the latest guidance from the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention.

"This new guidance for schools aligns with the latest recommendations from national health experts at the CDC," said Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott, the director of the Rhode Island Department of Health. "We know our kids learn best in school. It is critical that we minimize disruptions to school communities, while doing everything we can to limit transmission of COVID-19."

Under the new guidance, anyone who tests positive for COVID-19, regardless of vaccination status, will be required to isolate at home for at least five days. They can return to school on the sixth day if they are symptom free or if symptoms are improving and they have been fever-free for at least 24 hours.

"We’ve heard from families across the state that want their children in school, and we’re taking action," said Angélica Infante-Green, the commissioner of the Rhode Island Department of Education. "These new guidelines will ensure students benefit from the academic and social-emotional supports of in-person learning while protecting their health and safety. We’re looking forward to continuing to work with school leaders in each district to support them in providing the high-quality education their students deserve."

Exposures and contact tracing

The new policies will streamline case investigation and contact tracing efforts, notifying identified close contacts as soon as possible after the exposure. To accomplish this, the Department of Health will shorten case interviews and work to identify household contacts, while schools will focus on identifying and notifying close contact of those who were exposed in school.

Staff and students over the age of 18 will not need to quarantine after a COVID-19 exposure if they wear a well-fitting mask around others for 10 days and received a vaccine on the following schedule:

  • Booster dose

  • Two-dose Pfizer vaccine within the last five months

  • Two-dose Moderna vaccine within the last six months

  • Single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine within two months

Students between the ages of 5 and 15 years old won't have to quarantine after an exposure if it has been at least 14 days since their second vaccine dose and they wear a well-fitting mask around others for 10 days. If symptoms develop, they will be directed to get tested and isolate at home.

Those who are identified as close contacts and do not qualify for a quarantine exemption will be encouraged to follow the "monitor to stay" protocols, which allows them to continue to attend school in-person and participate in extracurricular activities. During this time, they will be asked to conduct symptom screenings and attest that they do not have symptoms for five days, follow quarantine guidance outside school and wear a high-quality and tight-fitting mask.

Students and staff who are identified as a close contact of a COVID-19 case will be exempt from quarantine if they had a positive case withing the past 90 days, the exposure happened on a school bus with all windows open and with face coverings, if the exposure happened during outdoor recess or they meet all the exception criteria:

  • The close contact and infected person are both Pre K-12 students;

  • The exposure occurred inside a Pre K-12 classroom or structured outdoor Pre K-12 setting where mask use can be observed (i.e., holding class outdoors with supervision);

  • Both students wore face masks at all times;

  • and Students were at least 3 feet apart from each other at all times; or

"My Administration has been committed to keeping students in the classroom where they are safest and where they learn best, and we’re taking steps to make sure that continues," the governor said. "We’re following the CDC and making changes to our school guidance that uses the existing capacities in schools, while prioritizing approaches based on data and the evolving surge in cases. Every student deserves a full, in-person education, and these new guidelines will help us ensure that COVID-19 does not disrupt their learning."

This article originally appeared on the Newport Patch

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