Leaders detailed updated COVID-19 quarantine guidance for Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) during a virtual press conference Monday.
The new guidance will take effect next Monday, Nov. 8, MCPS Interim Superintendent Dr. McKnight said. The Maryland departments of health and education released new K-12 childcare COVID-19 guidance Friday evening, she said.
Unvaccinated students have otherwise been required to quarantine for 10 days if they had close contact to someone with COVID-19. Quarantine guidance does not apply to asymptomatic fully-vaccinated students, who are exempt from quarantine if they had close contact with someone who tested positive.
Under the new guidance, in cases where the infected/exposed students were wearing masks and were not in a high-risk setting, the exposed close contacts can go to school each day only if they consent to MCPS’ screening testing program. They still cannot participate in high-risk school-sponsored activities and would be expected to quarantine outside of school, McKnight said.
High-risk settings/activities defined by the state are indoor, high-contact athletics and indoor forced exhalation, like singing, exercising or playing wind instruments, McKnight said.
If the infected/exposed students were not wearing masks at the time of exposure, like lunchtime, the close contacts would initially have to quarantine for 10 days but could return to school after day seven if the close contact submits a negative PCR test taken after day five. McKnight said that in some cases, close contacts could come to school and take rapid tests on a regular basis as part of MCPS’ test-to-stay program, which leaders said will pilot this week at select schools based on where large classroom exposures occur.
If exposures occur in a high-risk setting/activity, close contacts must also quarantine for 10 days but could come back to school after day seven if they submit a negative PCR test taken after day five.
Leaders are hopeful that approval of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine for youth ages 5-11 will also help minimize quarantines. Acting Health Officer Dr. James Bridgers said the county hopes to begin vaccinating that group over the weekend in middle school spaces. He said about 95,000-105,000 county residents are ages 5-11.