RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – New York City’s school district is moving away from mandatory classroom quarantines and instead plans to do more testing. If there’s a classroom with a COVID-19 case, the entire class will be sent home with a testing kit. Students come back if they’re negative.
It’s a strategy they hope can keep students from missing school. Researchers at Duke University said a similar strategy could work for North Carolina students as well.
As students prepare to return from winter break, Duke professor of pediatrics Dr. Danny Benjamin said a test-to-stay strategy could be a better alternative to the automatic quarantine we have now.
“Because there’s going to be a whole lot of COVID in schools in January, this is an important finding for children’s public health,” Benjamin said.
Benjamin is part of Duke’s ABC Science Collaborative. He studies COVID-19 transmission in K-12 schools. His six-week study found testing children exposed to COVID-19 rather than sending them into quarantine right away saved more than 1,600 school days from being missed.
“Any adult who’s trained in the test can administer the test, and that can be done at school. This is not to be done testing at home, he said.
Under current guidance, anyone exposed to a COVID-positive person needs to quarantine. The earliest they can come back is after five days if they’re asymptomatic and test negative.
The ABC Collaborative’s research found people exposed would only go home if they test positive or have symptoms. You can stay as long as they remain masked.
“If students are in a universal masking district, and they have a brief period of time when they are unmasked — for example, lunch — now, if they are exposed to COVID, they can stay at school,” Benjamin explained.
The program would work by testing the person exposed the day they are informed about exposure, then again between days five and seven.
The strategy uses fewer tests, something key given the current testing crunch.
“We reduced the amount of tests used by 90 percent and we reduce the amount of quarantine by over 90 percent compared to what the CDC is outlining,” said Benjamin.
The state now has these study results. It will be up to public health officials to decide what, if anything, to do with it.
Something they’ll have to pay extra attention to is school sports. They were associated with half of the confirmed cases in this study.