OCCHD Discusses Guidance Given To Schools Regarding Close Contacts, Quarantining

Friday, August 20th 2021, 5:24 pm
By: Erica Rankin

As the school year has gotten underway, there has been some confusion on who is considered a close contact and who needs to quarantine if they have been exposed to COVID-19.

Oklahoma County schools have been looking to the Oklahoma City-County Health Department for guidance on that.

The lead epidemiologist for OCCHD, Eddie Withers, said he has been receiving more than 10 calls every morning since the school year started from district leaders and principals about exposures and quarantines. He said they have been working hard with districts to evaluate things on a case-by-case basis and to quarantine only the ones who really need to. 

"The goal is, and honestly what we want the public to know, is that we are making every attempt to not quarantine in large groups," Withers said. "Like classrooms and schools, it is our goal to avoid that."

To be able to do that, Withers said they have to first identify who had "close contact" to whoever tested positive.

If there were masks being worn at the time of exposure, close contact would be considered being within three feet for a cumulative time amount of 15 minutes in 24 hours period.

If masks were not being worn, the time frame would stay the same but jump to within six feet of the positive person.

"So, you are going to capture more people because you don't have that barrier that that mask provides us," said Withers.

Withers said after going through the criteria, if someone has close contact, vaccination status then plays a part in moving forward with quarantining.

If someone is exposed and is fully vaccinated with no symptoms, quarantining isn't necessary.

"We recommend they test on day five and then we strongly recommend they wear a mask for 14 days," said Withers.

For those unvaccinated, they strongly recommend quarantining for 10 days and testing on day five.

Withers said he wants to reinforce the point these decisions are data driven.

"If you have a school and there is a lot of transmission, the way that is handled will be more aggressive the more cases that are there," said Withers.