BY KAREN CAMPBELL
Weakley County Schools Communications Director
WEAKLEY COUNTY (December 7) – The December 2 Tennessee Department of Education conference call with superintendents focused on updates from the Centers for Disease Control on guidance for COVID-19-related quarantines. Based on the discussion and direction from the Tennessee Department of Health, Weakley County Schools’ nurses and administrators were notified that afternoon of the reduction from the previously required 14 days to 10 days of quarantine.
Director of Coordinated School Health Bethany Allen explained the new guideline says quarantine due to a close contact will only be 10 days – if no symptoms have occurred. A person who is in quarantine due to a household contact will be in quarantine for 20 days if the positive case cannot isolate and 10 if they can. If a student or staff member has been in quarantine for 7 days and takes a COVID test (rapid or PCR) and it is negative, they may return to school upon receipt of the negative test result.
The CDC’s website indicates with 10-day quarantines, residual post-quarantine transmission risk is estimated to be about 1 percent with an upper limit of about 10 percent. With 7-day quarantines and a negative test result, the residual post-quarantine transmission risk is estimated to be about 5 percent with an upper limit of about 12 percent.
The CDC notes “quarantine is used to separate someone who might have been exposed to COVID-19 and may develop illness away from other people. Quarantine helps prevent spread of disease that can occur before a person knows they have the virus.”
However, authorities recognize a 14-day quarantine can “impose personal burdens that may affect physical and mental health as well as cause economic hardship that may reduce compliance.” The CDC concludes its rationale for the change noting reducing the length of quarantine will reduce the burden on public health authorities and the communities as well as possibly increase community compliance.
“As we near the conclusion of the first semester of classes, we want to maintain our focus on safety. However, we also want to ensure that we are meeting the emotional and academic needs of our students,” said Director Randy Frazier. “If the CDC and the TN Department of Health consider a shortened quarantine period to be acceptable, we will gladly adhere to that recommendation and keep the disruption to a minimum.”
In the almost 70 days of in-person classes since Weakley County opened school doors on August 17, the highest number of those in quarantine, having been possibly exposed but not positive, occurred on November 19. That number was 368. The school system has averaged 148 in quarantine throughout the semester. As of December 2, 193 students and staff were in quarantine.