Amphitheater district announces new quarantine protocols for close contacts
TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - The superintendent of Amphitheater Public Schools announced on Friday, Jan. 7, new protocols for students and staff who are exposed to those who have coronavirus.
In a letter announcing the change, Amphi Superintendent Dr. Todd A. Jaeger said the new protocols are expected to reduce the amount of time lost for in-school learning and work. He said the new directives are based on the most recent health guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Pima County Health Department.
Under the new guidelines, unvaccinated or partially vaccinated people who have been exposed to coronavirus will only need to quarantine for five days. They can return if they wear a mask and are not symptomatic or positive for the virus. Previous guidelines had set the quarantine time at 14 days, then lowered it to 10.
Fully vaccinated individuals who are exposed to the coronavirus may continue to attend school or work on campus, but must wear a mask and are not experiencing symptoms or positive for the virus.
Jaeger’s full letter is below:
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the Pima County Health Department (PCHD) have announced new protocols that will dramatically reduce the loss of in-school learning and work time for students and staff who are close contacts of others who have the coronavirus.
Unvaccinated or partially vaccinated persons who have been exposed to coronavirus will now only need to quarantine for 5 days (substantially less than the previous 10 or the original 14), after which they can return to school and work so long as they wear a mask and are not symptomatic or otherwise learn that they are positive for the virus. Based on the most recent health guidance, individuals who received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine more than two months ago, or the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines more than six months ago, are considered partially vaccinated for purposes of this protocol.
Fully vaccinated individuals who are exposed to the coronavirus will no longer need to quarantine at all, but instead may now continue to attend work or school so long as they wear a mask, do not experience symptoms, or become positive for the virus.
These are big changes in our public health quarantine directives, and they will help us keep more students in school and more people at work even as we experience the current surge in coronavirus cases. These new protocols are effective immediately and will be applied retroactively to any individuals who were assigned to quarantine status this first week of the new semester.
Coming Soon: The “Test to Stay” Option
The CDC and PCHD have also announced an additional new protocol that avoids even the new 5-day quarantine for unvaccinated or partially vaccinated persons who are exposed to the coronavirus. This program will be entirely voluntary and optional. Under this protocol, participants will be able to remain in school and work notwithstanding close contact exposure, so long as they wear a mask, are tested for the virus on the 3rd and 5th day following exposure, and both tests are negative. Those who choose the Test to Stay option would, of course, still quarantine if they do test positive for COVID-19 or develop symptoms.
The optional Test to Stay protocol is dependent upon having a sufficient supply of COVID-19 tests, so the current national shortage of these tests currently precludes its implementation. We are working with PCHD and other suppliers to obtain the tests we need, and we intend to start this new protocol as soon as possible because it will allow us to avoid quarantining for the vast majority of close contact situations.
New County-Wide Mask Requirements
On December 21, 2021, the Pima County Board of Supervisors passed Resolution 2021-87 in response to a surge of COVID-19 cases and deaths. Within the Amphitheater District, like other local school districts, this does not represent a change, as we already have an indoor mask requirement in place for all of our school district facilities. Adherence to this mask requirement is an integral part of the Test to Stay and shorter quarantine periods, and we ask for everyone’s continued cooperation in this regard.
Notwithstanding the recent surge in COVID cases, these new changes in our public health protocols represent an evolution of our response to the pandemic based upon the evolution of our knowledge. I hope you join me in being encouraged by these changes and what they represent: a means of better ensuring the consistent and safe education of our children. And, I hope they also represent the promise of an ultimate end to our ongoing challenge altogether.
I wish you all good health and a happy new year as we continue to take care of one another.
Todd A. Jaeger, J.D.
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