CDC’s shortened COVID-19 quarantine recommendations could reduce school disruptions

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Health officials’ decision to shorten the recommended quarantine period after coronavirus exposure could reduce school closures and related disruptions, the Indiana state health commissioner said.

Until Wednesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommended a 14-day quarantine period for people exposed to the virus.

The agency revised its guidance based on new research and modeling data, offering two options: 

  • People who are asymptomatic can end quarantine after 10 days. 
  • People who are asymptomatic and test negative for COVID-19 on days 5, 6 or 7 after exposure can end quarantine after 7 days. 

“Boy, I wish I would have had that update about a week ago,” Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb joked Wednesday during his weekly coronavirus briefing.

He and his wife quarantined for 14 days, despite negative test results, after several members of his security detail tested positive for COVID-19 in November.

The standard 14-day quarantine can pose economic hardship but remains the safest option, CDC officials said.

Jimii Alvarez, a laid-off restaurant worker with scarred lungs, said she trusts the CDC’s new recommendations are safe, but hopes people who are able to will still quarantine for 14 days to protect the vulnerable.

“Just to be safe,” she said.

People who encounter high-risk individuals – including the elderly or immunosuppressed – should quarantine for the full 14 days, advised Dr. Kris Box, the state health commissioner.

However, she said the CDC’s new guidance could benefit schoolchildren and workers unable to effectively do their jobs at home.

“I really think that this is going to help us get more kids back in school sooner, so I’m very, very excited about that,” Box said. 

Don Wettrick, an education entrepreneur and former teacher, said requiring teachers to quarantine for 14 days after possible exposure can sometimes force schools to close and pivot to e-learning with little notice. 

Shortening the quarantine period will reduce strain on school staff and substitutes, allowing students to settle into more consistent routines, he said.

“It’s been difficult on the teachers, the schools, the subs; everybody. I think that a lot of kids are struggling mentally by missing that component of being back with each other,” Wettrick told News 8.