The Palm Springs Unified School District has changed its quarantine procedures to enable some students who have recently been infected with or exposed to COVID-19 to return to school quicker than had previously been allowed.
The changes, pursuant to California Department of Public Health guidance for K-12 schools updated on Jan. 12, come as Palm Springs Unified reports 777 active COVID-19 cases in the district: 673 among students and 104 among staff.
According to the new state public health guidance, quarantine is no longer recommended for asymptomatic students who have been in close contact with someone testing positive for COVID-19 as long as the asymptomatic students have either completed a "primary series" of COVID-19 vaccines or were themselves previously infected with COVID-19 within the past 90 days.
Asymptomatic students who have been close contacts and have not been vaccinated or recently infected with COVID-19 might still have to undergo modified (five-day) or standard (10-day) quarantines depending on whether masks had been worn at the time of close contact and whether the asymptomatic student is subsequently tested for the virus.
To understand specific scenarios, parent should read the full guidance from the California Department of Public Health and check the updated guidance from Palm Springs Unified.
What does this mean for PSUSD students?
According to a letter addressed to parents on the Palm Springs Unified website, the following changes are now applicable to students:
If your child has recently been exposed or excluded, and has not tested positive for COVID-19, they may return to school on Tuesday, Jan. 18, if they show no COVID-19 symptoms.
If your child tested positive for COVID-19 this week, they may return to school on Tuesday, Jan. 18, if they show no COVID-19 symptoms and bring a negative COVID test to school on Tuesday.
For this to apply, "You must show proof of a negative test dated at least five days after the date of the positive test," said district spokesperson Joan Boiko.
She elaborated: "If you have tested positive you are required to stay home for five days and test on the fifth day or later. If you are negative and have no symptoms you can return on day 6."
A sample exposure notification letter to parents/guardians with the updated changes can be viewed on the district website. The district will begin using the updated notification template for contact tracing on Tuesday.
To help with testing, the district will provide each student with an additional at-home COVID-19 rapid test kit from the California Department of Public Health.
"We thank you for your cooperation and understanding as policies and guidance change," Superintendent Mike Swize said in a statement. "As always, we thank you for your continued support of Palm Springs Unified School District."
Jonathan Horwitz covers education for The Desert Sun. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or @Writes_Jonathan.
This article originally appeared on Palm Springs Desert Sun: PSUSD changes quarantine procedures according to new state guidance