Montgomery County, Maryland, officials now say public school staff and students age 5 and older who test positive for COVID-19 should isolate for five days.
After day five, if the person has no symptoms — or has shown symptom improvement — and hasn’t had a fever for 24 hours, they may return to school as long as they wear a mask.
In a change of course from guidelines released in November, Maryland’s largest school system said fully vaccinated adults and children — and those who’ve had COVID-19 in the last 90 days — who have been exposed to someone with COVID-19 don’t need to quarantine, but instead wear a mask around others for 10 days and get tested at least five days after the exposure. They will not be required to quarantine unless they also test positive.
The revised guidelines come closer to aligning with those from Maryland’s Department of Health, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Maryland State Department of Education.
But there is one critical difference: for children younger than 5, the recommendations call for isolation and quarantine periods of 10 days before a return to school or day care.
Earl Stoddard, the county’s Assistant Chief Administrative Officer, explained why the county’s updated recommendations vary from state guidelines when it comes to children 5 and under: “They’re neither vaccinated nor can they effectively wear face coverings.” Coronavirus vaccines have not yet been approved for children younger than 5 years old.
“Everything for 5 and over is in line with the state of Maryland,” Stoddard pointed out.
While the new guidance cuts the periods for isolation and quarantine from 14 days to 10 days, not everyone is happy that the county continues to differ when it comes to isolation and quarantine policies for younger children. On Friday night, Montgomery County Council member Andrew Friedson told WTOP that he plans on asking about that discrepancy at the council’s briefing on Tuesday.
Earlier Friday, when County Executive Marc Elrich and County Council President Gabe Albornoz met virtually with members of the Montgomery County delegation to Annapolis, Del. Kirill Reznik said he’d been hearing from operators of day care and preschools, which are licensed by the state.
“What they are seeing is very conflicting guidance with regard to quarantining and testing and everything else,” Reznik said.
Reznik also said the lack of consistency between state and county guidelines created confusion for providers and parents. He told county officials, “What you are doing is not only putting a lot of pressure on the day cares and the preschools, but you are also putting a lot of pressure on families with young kids who may not be able to quarantine as easily, for as long as literally the rest of the known universe.”
Stoddard said it would be up to the Montgomery County Public School System to implement the updated policies. He said he has reservations about going to a shorter, five-day isolation and quarantine period for students returning to school because of the challenges of preventing the spread of the coronavirus in cafeterias. Wearing masks effectively, Stoddard said, “is very difficult to do in that setting.”
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