ROCK HALL — Modified quarantine guidelines released by the Maryland Department of Health and Maryland State Department of Education have changed procedures for kindergarten through 12th grade students.
MDH and MSDE outlined three modifications for quarantine guidelines on Oct. 27. Kent County Public Schools will be shifting their guidelines based on the “correct and consistent use of well-fitting masks” model.
“Students that are asymptomatic and unvaccinated who are in close contact with a student that has been diagnosed with COVID-19 will no longer have to quarantine as long as they were consistently wearing their masks and they remain asymptomatic,” said Karen Couch, superintendent of Kent County Public Schools, at the Board of Education’s regular meeting Nov. 8.
“The evidence that we have suggests that the masks really really help diminish the likelihood of transmission in a school setting,” said William Webb, Kent County health officer, in a phone interview Monday, Nov. 15.
If an asymptomatic unvaccinated student was exposed when students were not wearing masks, such as in the cafeteria, that student would still have to quarantine.
“The number of exposures that happened in the lunch room or at band practice, that was a very small subset of our students who were exposed,” Webb said.
Also part of the modified guidelines is a decreased quarantine duration. While before students had to quarantine for 14 days, now they only have to quarantine for up to 10 days so long as no symptoms have been reported during daily monitoring.
Quarantine may end early, after day seven, if an unvaccinated student receives a negative, medically supervised COVID-19 test on day five of quarantine.
KCPS worked not only with MDH and MSDE guidance, but also directly with the Kent County Health Department to determine what would keep students both safe and in the classroom.
“It gives us a way to make sure our kids are staying in school as much as possible,” Couch said of the modified quarantine guidelines.
Webb said that the guidelines were modified because many students were having to quarantine due to exposure, but very few of those students actually contracted COVID-19.
“The quarantining was following established best practices that have been around for many, many years, but it was adversely impacting the education experience of our kids and our kids were falling behind,” Webb said. “We know that educational achievement is directly related to the amount of time they’re in a classroom, in a seat. We know that the more class time they have, the better they do on standardized test and all of the other educational milestones.”
Students who are fully vaccinated and have been exposed to COVID-19 do not need to quarantine, but do need to continue to wear their masks.
All students who are symptomatic — cough, fever, gastrointestinal distress, congestion, signs of respiratory illness — should stay at home.
“We don’t want sick kids in school,” Webb said.
The modified quarantine guidelines only apply to students. Any unvaccinated adults in the schools exposed to COVID-19 will need to quarantine for 10 days whether or not they were wearing masks.
There are no changes in guidance for those who test positive for COVID-19. They will still isolate themselves for 10 days from the onset of symptoms or positive test result.
The Health Department offers testing four days a week at their testing center at 514 Washington Ave. in Chestertown. Appointments for the general community can be made for Mondays and Thursdays. Appointments for students and those working in the school system can also be made Tuesdays and Wednesdays.
The Health Department uses PCR nasal swab tests which are definitive. Results from those tests are available after 30 to 48 hours.
There are vaccination clinics for those aged 12 to 18 every Thursday. If Thursday is a holiday, the clinic will be held on Wednesday instead.
From 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 20 at Kent County Middle School, there will be a vaccine clinic for those aged 5 to 11. Appointments are available through the Health Department website.
A list of clinics offered at the Kent County Community Center in Worton — serving those aged 5 and older — can be found on the Health Department’s website.
Kent County’s COVID-19 metrics are currently high.
While Webb said they are looking into the cause they do not yet know why.
“We’re encouraging everyone to please continue to use your face masks in public, wash your hands, use hand sanitizer, socially distance and take all of the steps that you have been taking. And please get vaccinated,” Webb said.
Webb said the fastest way to get out of the pandemic was for everyone who was eligible to be vaccinated to get the vaccine.