MINNEAPOLIS — Minnesota reached a milestone this past weekend, with 50 % of 12-15-year old’s in the state starting the COVID 19 vaccination process.
But with the school year starting in just a few weeks and an increase in COVID 19 cases nationwide due to the highly contagious Delta variant - what happens if your child tests positive for COVID-19 or encounters someone who has the virus in school?
“There’s no way around it,” said Minnesota Department of Health infectious disease director, Kris Ehresmann. “If a child tests positive, they are a positive case. They do need to go home to isolate and that means that we would recommend quarantine for their close contacts.”
So lots of parents want to know, “Does that mean the whole class needs to quarantine?”
The answer? It depends.
Usually anyone who is unvaccinated needs to quarantine after an exposure-- but in the school setting-- Kris Ehresmann with the Minnesota Department of Health -- says other factors will come into play.
For example, if kids are not old enough to be vaccinated yet-- 'and' they were wearing their masks-- usually they are 'not' going to be asked to quarantine.
“If you have a case in a classroom setting who was masked and the contacts were masked the contacts don’t need to quarantine, based on exposure in indoor classroom setting, not in sports or anything and doesn’t apply to adults, just for the students,” said Ehresmann.
If the infected student and their 'student' contacts are 'not' masked... but are 'vaccinated'-- they still don't need to quarantine.
But if the students are unvaccinated-- and unmasked-- they would need to quarantine and get tested. “Specifically, if a child is unvaccinated, we would still be looking at your need to quarantine at this point, because the delta variant is still contagious in unvaccinated people.”
So how about the ‘parent’s'?
“Unvaccinated parents would need to quarantine, but vaccinated parents would not have to quarantine,” said Ehresmann. “They would be recommended to test at the 3-5 days mark and wear a mask until they get a negative test.”
Health officials say fully vaccinated parents, teachers and staff facing exposure should continue to follow CDC guidelines – which recommends testing. If there are no symptoms, fully vaccinated close contacts do NOT need to quarantine at home following an exposure but should wear a mask in indoor public settings for 14 days or until they receive a negative test result.
Those who are unvaccinated and recently had close contact with a person with COVID-19 should quarantine until they meet criteria to return.
But Ehresmann is hoping it doesn't get to that point with proper mitigation efforts-- and testing-- in school.
"Each method of mitigation provides something different, but testing provides the ability to identify cases early to make sure people are appropriately isolating and contacts are identified,” said Ehresmann.