School quarantine guidelines adjusted


Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds discussed new quarantine guidelines for Iowa schools during a press conference Sept. 29.

Katherine Kealey

Iowa will no longer recommend school districts to quarantine after being in contact with a positive COVID-19 case if proper use of face coverings was maintained, according to new state guidelines.

Individuals who have correctly and consistently utilized face coverings will not need to self-quarantine at home. Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds made the announcement of the new guidelines during Tuesday’s press conference, as Iowa reaches over 87,000 positive COVID-19 cases.

Face-coverings must be worn the entire time by both individuals. Guidelines still recommend self-monitoring and self-checking for symptoms.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) continues to recommend those who have been in close contact with a positive COVID-19 case to quarantine even with the use of face-covering.

“In some situations, they are having to quarantine a disproportionately high number of students, when just a few positive cases have been identified,” Reynolds said. “Iowa is definitely not alone in this challenge and we have been assessing how other states have handled the situation.”

Dr. Caitlin Pedati, Iowa’s state medical director, said as new information has come out, state public health guidelines have been adjusted. 

“Public health has had a lot of conversations with school administrators and families about their experiences in quarantine,” Pedati said. “And [about] the fact that we don’t frequently see additional infection in situations where people have been wearing face coverings.”

When comparing a school district with required face-coverings to three districts that do not, it found the districts without face-covering requirements have 30 to 130 percent high rates of new COVID-19 cases, Pedati said. 

Reynolds said this is guidance, not a mandate, so schools will be able to decide whether or not they wear face-coverings and this could be used as an incentive, She said she believes schools will do the right thing.  

“If they are doing it properly and everybody was wearing a mask, then they shouldn’t have to quarantine for 14 days,” Reynolds said. “I think it provides some flexibility to [schools] and it really helps to keep the kids in school in a safe and responsible manner […]. They are doing layered mitigation efforts and all of that really speaks to protecting the students.”

Reynolds said Iowa will be expanding on testing as the federal government will allocate 150 million tests to the states and the states have the flexibility to use the tests as necessary. It is expected the state will receive 40,000 to 50,000 tests a week until December, for a total allocation of approximately 900,000 tests.

As the Department of Public Health and State Hygienic Lab work on a distribution plan, tests will be prioritized to rural areas with less access to testing and school staff and students. Tests will not be shipped directly to schools.

“We are going to be working with our local health care providers who can not only provide the test but also check the general health of children,” Reynolds said. “During the pandemic, many families have understandably fallen behind with well-child visits and other preventative care since the start of the pandemic. It is important that families maintain a connection with their provider, especially if their child has been exposed to COVID-19 cases.”