St. Paul Public Schools may drop COVID contact tracing and quarantine rules – Twin Cities | #coronavirus | #kids. | #children | #schools


Just as coronavirus cases are surging after winter break, St. Paul Public Schools is considering no longer identifying and excluding unvaccinated students who come into contact with an infected person at school.

Contact tracing is taxing school health personnel, and extended quarantines are hard on families, said Mary Langworthy, the district’s health and wellness director. She said many students have had to stay home for 10 days on three different occasions.

“Our parents are struggling to get to their jobs, they don’t have daycare options. … That’s a hardship for many of our families to endure,” she told the school board this week.

With the more contagious omicron variant taking over, the St. Paul district had counted 819 new cases in students, staff and visitors through Wednesday this week, compared to 690 all of December. At the same time, the severity of those cases “has gone down quite a bit,” Langworthy said.

She also said transmission at school is fairly low, which means quarantines are forcing many kids to miss school unnecessarily.

“It’s really hard for these kids to gain back what they lost last year,” she said.

Langworthy said she’ll meet with state and Ramsey County public health officials next week to discuss contact tracing and other possible changes in the district’s COVID-19 protocols.

CHANGING GUIDANCE

Last school year, Minnesota schools were required to identify and exclude for 14 days any students or employees who spent at least 15 minutes within six feet of an infected person.

For this school year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reduced its close-contact quarantine length to 10 days for asymptomatic people and said students could stay in school as long as they and the infected person were wearing face masks. (Although St. Paul requires masks, students who eat together can be considered close contacts.)

At the same time, Gov. Tim Walz let his emergency powers expire, empowering school officials to decide which recommended COVID-19 protocols they want to follow. While the St. Paul and Minneapolis school districts continued contact tracing and close-contact quarantines, Anoka-Hennepin and many others did not.

This week, the CDC shortened close-contact quarantines again, allowing unvaccinated students to return to school after just five days and a negative test.

The CDC also shortened isolation times for people who test positive. They now can leave home five days after their symptoms first appear, as long as they don’t have a fever.

The Minnesota health and education departments have yet to respond to those changes, and the St. Paul and Minneapolis districts have told families they’re reviewing the new guidance.

TEST-TO-STAY

Rochester Public Schools in the fall began offering an alternative to quarantine, allowing close contacts to stay in school as long as they test negative five times over the course of the expected quarantine.

Interim superintendent Kent Pekel said he figured COVID-19 wasn’t go away anytime soon, and he didn’t want students to miss out on in-person instruction.



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