The New Jersey School Boards Association is reporting that the New Jersey Department of Health (DOH) has updated quarantine recommendations for school settings, shortening the quarantine time for students who have been exposed to someone with a positive COVID-19 result from 14 days to seven days – as long as the person who has been exposed tests negative after five to seven days of quarantine.
According to the NJSBA, in a Dec. 16 news release, the DOH also stated that a student who does not get tested could return to school after 10 days at home as long as the student does not exhibit symptoms.
The updated recommendations discontinue the use of regional transmission risk levels to determine quarantine timeframes. The new recommendations, which do not apply to healthcare settings, align with guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The guidance continues to recommend the optimal quarantine of 14 days for individuals who have been in close contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19.
Quarantine helps prevent the spread of disease that can occur before a person knows they have the virus. However, according to the NJSBA, in its news release the DOH notes that the optimal 14-day exclusion timeframe may pose significant challenges for individuals – and decreasing the duration can reduce the burden on individuals and increase compliance.
The CDC has determined these shortened timeframes are acceptable options. The revised DOH guidance for schools permits a shortened timeframe for student and staff exclusion after exposure.
Therefore, during all levels of community transmission and outbreaks, asymptomatic individuals who are identified as a close contact to someone with COVID-19 may use a reduced exclusion period of 10 days (or seven days with negative test results collected at five to seven days), but must continue to monitor for symptoms for 14 days after exposure.
“While a 14-day quarantine period is optimal, the CDC and the New Jersey Department of Health recognize the value of shortening quarantine in certain circumstances,” New Jersey Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli said.
“Vaccination continues to provide the best protection against COVID-19, preventing transmission in school, and eliminating the need to quarantine following an exposure.
“I recommend that all parents talk to their child’s healthcare provider about the COVID-19 vaccine and urge school personnel to seek vaccination and boosters as soon as possible,” Persichilli said.
In the school setting, during times of moderate and high community transmission levels, individuals with COVID-19 symptoms and no known exposure to a COVID-19 case in the last 14 days, regardless of vaccination status, may follow the DOH school exclusion list to determine when they may return to school only if they have an alternative diagnosis such as strep throat, influenza or allergies supported by an evaluation by a medical provider.
Testing is still recommended for anyone with COVID-19 symptoms.