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New state quarantine and isolation guidance for schools

Posted at 6:18 PM, Sep 22, 2020

OMAHA, Neb. — State and health officials have announced guidance changes pertaining to quarantine and isolation protocols for schools. They say to get students back into school buildings, some quarantine protocols that were recommended previously are now loosened.

Schools have been in session now for over a month and local health departments, including Douglas County, have been closely monitoring the data. At Governor Ricketts' press conference Monday, health officials and the Nebraska education commissioner announced looser restrictions in schools regarding who has to quarantine.

The changes come with the governor's updated directed health measure in phase 4, which states how schools should assess quarantines and isolations.

"The biggest change... is considerations for those exposures and possible ability for schools to allow students back in school even after an exposure," Elkhorn Logan Valley Public Health Department director Gina Uhing said at the press conference Monday.

The new guidelines state that students who may have been exposed to the virus in school can still attend in person if:

- The exposed student monitors the development of symptoms and wears a mask
- The exposure occurred during an extracurricular activity outdoors
- Both the exposed student and the infected student were wearing masks at the time of exposure if in a confined space

Each school district does still have the option to take stronger measures if necessary, something the Douglas County Health Department still recommends.

"The recommendations across the state differ a little bit. Douglas County has always been following CDC guidance and recommending anyone who has had close contact with a case be quarantined, regardless of a mask," Douglas County Health Department senior epidemiologist Anee O'Keefe said.

State officials say the goal is to get more students back into school buildings safely.

"Not really letting up on those protocols. We're watching the data. If we see that we have room to do something a little bit better and the data proves that we can, we'll do that. If we see that something's not working as well, we're going to be in there making adjustments as we continue to go," Nebraska Education Commissioner Matthew Blomstedt said.

If you have questions about this change and if it affects quarantine protocols at your school, contact your district.