LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) – Unvaccinated students in Los Angeles County who are exposed to COVID-19 will not necessarily have to stay off school campuses, under new guidelines announced Thursday.
The L.A. County Department of Health reported that K-12 students, under certain circumstances, will be allowed to continue to attend in-person instruction at school even if they have been exposed to someone diagnosed with COVID-19.
The health department terms it a "modified quarantine."
"Modified quarantine allows, under certain conditions, an unvaccinated student with an exposure to a confirmed COVID-19 case to continue in-person instruction at school during their quarantine, while restricting their activities outside of the classroom," the department said in a news release.
The new protocol is in response to analysis of a four-week sample of data that shows that there has been "relatively low transmission" of COVID-19 in schools, the health department said.
According to the LACHD, between Aug. 15 and Sept. 13, there were 7,995 cases of the coronavirus among students and 1,193 among staff in L.A. County schools. The vast majority of those occurred in the L.A. Unified School District.
With an estimated 1.5 million students and 175,000 staff in L.A. County, it means that since the beginning of the school year, 0.5% of students and 0.7% of staff have tested positive for COVID-19.
Since the fall term started, LAUSD has required weekly coronavirus testing for all students and staff, regardless of whether or not they are vaccinated.
The district also announced last week that all eligible students age 12 and over will be required to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 to attend in-person classes.
"Given the massive testing of asymptomatic individuals at schools, this very low rate of infection affirms the safety provided to students and staff at schools," the health department wrote.
Modified quarantine will apply to students were exposed to COVID-19 at school or at a school-supervised activity in which both the person who was exposed and the infected person were masked, and there is no "defined outbreak."
The exposed student must remain asymptomatic during the modified quarantine, and must stay home except when attending classes or school activities.
They will also be required to get tested twice weekly. The modified quarantine will end with the second test, conducted at least five days after exposure, comes back negative.
L.A. County Public Health Director Dr. Barbara Ferrer said school districts are not required to offer the modified quarantine, noting that schools would have to have the necessary resources to enforce all of its requirements. She conceded that it could also be difficult in some cases to verify that the exposure occurred when both the unvaccinated student and the infected person were both wearing masks at all times.
"It gets complicated when students are doing other activities together," Ferrer said Thursday, pointing to students who are eating together or taking part in outdoor activities during recess.
The modified quarantine procedure is only available for students, not teachers. The procedure also cannot be used in cases of a confirmed COVID outbreak at a campus.
(© Copyright 2021 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. City News Service contributed to this report.)
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