North Carolina schools won't force kids vaccinated against or recently recovered from COVID-19 to quarantine

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The North Carolina Department of Public Instruction on Friday updated its COVID-19 quarantine rules for school children and staff exposed to the virus.

Students vaccinated against COVID-19 and staff who have received their booster shots will not have to quarantine away from school after being exposed to someone with the virus. Students and staff who have had COVID-19 within the last 90 days are also exempt from quarantining after exposure.

Additionally, if the student or staff member exposed to COVID and the person with COVID were wearing masks at the time of their contact, those students and staff will not be subject to quarantine.

“Research and lived experience in this pandemic have shown it is essential we do everything we can to safely keep our students in the classroom,” North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS) Chief Deputy Secretary Susan Gale Perry said in a Friday statement. “In-person learning is more than academics, it’s also children interacting with their peers, getting healthy meals and accessing critical support services.”

Elementary students wearing masks in the classroom (iStock)

The NDHHS also reduced the amount of time a person must spend away from school after testing positive for the virus to five days if they are asymptomatic in alignment with new guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Those who get repeat negative PCR tests within 24 to 48 hours after testing positive may return to school. 

Those who return to school without symptoms five days after contracting the virus or after repeatedly testing negative must wear a mask for at least five days upon their return.

Leah Lefkove, 9, covers her face as her dad Dr. Ben Lefkove gives her the first COVID-19 vaccine at the Viral Solutions vaccination and testing site in Decatur, Ga.  (AP Photo/Ben Gray)

Similarly, students and staff who have not been tested for COVID but are experiencing symptoms must quarantine for five days and experience no fever for at least 24 hours before they can return to school. They must show a negative test before returning and will have to wear masks for at least 10 days after they return.

The NCDHHS continues to advocate for mask-wearing for at-risk individuals, people with symptoms and those recently recovered from COVID-19, but the Department only requires masks in counties with substantial transmission rates.

“Protecting our students and staff requires layers of protection to stop the spread of COVID-19,” State Health Director and NCDHHS Chief Medical Officer Dr. Elizabeth Cuervo Tilson said. “In addition to vaccines and masks, Test-to-Stay is another proven tool that can help minimize the spread of COVID-19 while also maximizing time in the classroom.”

President Biden and the American Academy of Pediatrics continue to support in-person learning.

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