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New guidelines released last week say that students who come into close contact with classmates who test positive for COVID no longer need to quarantine for 14 days. Those who spent more than 15 minutes within three feet of someone who tested positive now only need to quarantine for seven days if they test negative, or 10 days if they don’t get tests, says the New Jersey Department of Health.

“In the school setting, excluded individuals who are close contacts of staff or students who tested positive for COVID-19 and who are asymptomatic may use a reduced exclusion period of 10 days (or 7 days with negative test results collected at 5-7 days) but continue to monitor for symptoms for 14 days after exposure,” says the guidance.

Previous recommendations were for schools to keep students out of school for two weeks, even if the student tested negative. Many complained that the 14-day restriction kept healthy students home from school for too long and created an unnecessary burden on working parents.

The new guidelines are in line with recommendations from the CDC. And while most of NJ’s school districts follow the CDC’s guidelines school boards are free to make their own quarantine rules. Middletown Board of Education had previously shortened their quarantine times. This caused a stir as some health officials called it a recipe for disaster. The school board’s new rules now align with the new recommendations.
The CDC has embraced this Test-to-Stay approach which will help students avoid missing school.

“While a 14-day quarantine period is optimal, the CDC and N.J. Department of Health recognizes the value of shortening quarantine in certain circumstances,” said state Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli.

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