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Indiana Changing Mitigations Involving COVID-19 Infections In Schools

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Despite that difference in community transmission, Indiana is making some changes to mitigations.

In schools, no more contact tracing, reporting cases to the State Health Department, and quarantine for students exposed to a positive COVID-19 case.

CBS 2's Suzanne le Mignot visited Hammond on what these changes mean for students and parents.

Hammond High School is just one of the schools in Indiana seeing changes when it comes to COVID-19 protocols because of the rapid decline in cases in the state.

"In Lake County in particular, we've dropped from over 1,000 cases a day, the beginning of January, to 40 cases a day, so it's a tremendous decline."

Micah Pollak is a professor of economics at Indiana University Northwest. Pollak has published data in medical journals regarding COVID-19 infections in Indiana schools.  We asked him about the Indiana department of health no longer requiring contact tracing or positive cases at schools to be reported to IDOH.

"As cases fall, you have to kind of take some steps back. Contact tracing, reporting positive cases, those are very time and resource-intensive, school nurses spend a lot of time dealing with contact tracing," he said.

Pollak says the downside of no contact tracing, is no longer knowing the number of COVID-19 cases in a school district from week to week. when it comes to the IDOH saying schools will no longer need to quarantine students exposed to a positive COVID-19 case, regardless of vaccination status or whether the school requires masks, Pollak says:

"For some schools, this doesn't really change things too much, for others it may provide an opportunity to keep students in the classroom more, which is good, but at the same time, there is a chance this could increase the amount of spread and cause more classroom cases to occur."

The new IDOH guidelines also say, those who test positive for COVID-19 should isolate for five days and can return to school on day six, if they have been fever-free for 24 hours, without the use of medication.

"I don't think that this means that potentially everyone will not be contagious. There's a chance some students coming back to school, will be contagious, even after five days, but it's a relatively small chance and I think that the decision here is that that risk is relatively small compared to the importance of getting kids back into school."

Pollack says it's been hard for parents who have had to quarantine their children, for two weeks at some point during the pandemic, so the new guideline of a five-day isolation will make it more manageable, but he says there is still some risk but with community spread being low, that risk should also be low.

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