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New rules for NJ school kids exposed to COVID

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In an effort to keep schools open for in-person learning, the New Jersey Department of Health is revising quarantine guidelines for students and staff members who test positive for COVID or have been exposed to the virus.

The new recommendations bring New Jersey in line with the guidance issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Schools have been struggling to keep classrooms open amid this latest surge in COVID cases. More than a quarter of all K-12 schools started the New Year with at least some remote classes due to students or staff testing positive or having contact with an infected person.

In a release, health officials stressed these guidelines apply only to K-12 schools, and not to child care facilities.

The new guidelines state:

  • Individuals regardless of vaccination status, who test positive or individuals with COVID19 symptoms who have not been tested and do not have an alternative diagnosis from their healthcare provider should:
  • Stay home for at least 5 full days after the onset of symptoms or if asymptomatic after the positive test

If they have no symptoms or symptoms are resolving after 5 days, they can leave their home and should:

  • Wear a mask when around others at home and in public (indoors and outdoors) for an additional 5 days.
  • For these additional 5 days, schools should have a plan to ensure adequate distance during those activities (i.e., eating) when mask wearing is not
    possible.
  • Time without mask being worn should be kept to minimum possible.

Exposed close contacts who have no COVID-19 symptoms in the following groups do not need to quarantine or be excluded from school:

  • Age 18 or older and have received all recommended vaccine doses,
    including boosters and additional primary shots for some immunocompromised people.
  • Age 5-17 years and completed the primary series of COVID-19 vaccines.
  • Had confirmed COVID-19 within the last 90 days (tested positive using a viral test).

The guidelines issued by the Murphy administration are not mandates, and schools are free to set their own rules. They can either extend or shorten the quarantine period or add other criteria as they see fit. However, the vast majority of the state’s school districts have been following DOH policy.

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