State loosens quarantine recommendations for school districts

Students in Iowa schools will no longer have to self isolate for 14 days following the infection of someone in their immediate vicinity as long as both people had been properly using face coverings during the time they were exposed.


Katina Zentz

Gov. Kim Reynolds speaks during the Condition of the State address at the Iowa State Capitol on Tuesday, January 14, 2020.

Lauren White, Politics Reporter

Gov. Kim Reynolds loosened the recommendation regarding students quarantining if a classmate or teacher tests positive for the coronavirus during a press conference Tuesday morning.

This new recommendation makes it so that school administration, staff, and students will not need to quarantine if someone in their immediate vicinity tests positive for the virus, as long as they have been properly wearing face masks. This new guideline is not a mandate, but just a recommendation, Reynolds said.

Current guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that people in close contact quarantine even if they’re wearing face masks, State Epidemiologist Caitlin Pedati said. But she said data from Iowa and neighboring states has prompted public health officials to make the change.

Pedati said that areas that do not use face coverings saw a 30 percent to 130 percent higher rate of infection than the districts that do wear face masks.

“Public health has had many conversations with school administrators and families about their experiences in quarantine and the fact that we don’t frequently see additional infection in situations where people have been wearing face coverings,” Pedati said.

Reynolds said it will be on school districts to keep their staff and students accountable for wearing face coverings since there is no specific way to federally monitor whether or not everyone is properly using face coverings.

Yesterday, President Trump announced a plan to distribute 150 million rapid point-of-care tests to be distributed across the country. 100 million of these tests will be used specifically to help states reopen schools and economies, Trump said during a press conference.

The new rapid point-of-care tests are home tests that are easy to use and return results in minutes without the need for a machine to analyze them, Trump said.

Reynolds said that these tests would go to schools in order to make sure students do not get sick so that they can stay in school.

The change in recommendation, Reynolds said, is a great incentive to have more Iowans wear masks. Reynolds again resisted the idea of implementing a statewide mask mandate, but she said that 75 percent of Iowans are currently wearing face coverings daily, referencing a recent Des Moines Register/Mediacom Iowa Poll that found compliance among Iowa adults was 76 percent.

“We know they are effective and if people are using them, they do not have to quarantine for 14 days, we want to keep kids in school,” Reynolds said.

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