Annapolis, MD (Arundel.News & AAFA)- Anne Arundel County Public Schools will begin allowing some staff and students with limited exposure to return to the the classroom sooner than the standard ten day quarantine window. A newly updated webpage on aacps.org, says the following guidelines for quarantine protocol begin today 10/11/21:

"To end quarantine early, a student or staff member must have a negative test administered between days 5 and 7 of quarantine. The test cannot be a home rapid test. If the test result is negative, the student or staff member can return to school or work on the day after Day 7 of quarantine (not on Day 7 of quarantine) provided they are symptom-free. Documentation of the negative test must be provided to the school before the student can return."

According to the AACPS COVID-19 Dashboard site, over 1,300 students and 27 staff members are currently in quarantine. 150 students and 19 staffers are currently infected with the virus. 

There are some exceptions to the quarantine requirements according to the new contact tracing process:

"If a close contact is fully vaccinated for more than 14 days or who has had COVID in the last 90 days and is asymptomatic, that person does not have to quarantine. However, that person must mask in public indoor settings for 14 days and is recommended to be tested 3 to 5 days from exposure. Masking (except where required by AACPS) can be removed upon receipt of an negative test. AACPS requires proof of vaccination status for this quarantine exclusion to apply."

What is the definition of a close contact?

"With some limited exceptions, those determined to have been within 6 feet of the COVID-positive person for 15 total (not consecutive) minutes over a 24-hour period are identified as “close contacts.”

Is there a close contact exception for students in classrooms?

"Yes. According to guidance from the CDC, in the K–12 indoor classroom setting, the “close contact” definition excludes students who were within 3 to 6 feet of an infected student (not adult) where both students were engaged in consistent and correct use of well-fitting masks; and other K-12 school prevention strategies (such as universal and correct mask use, physical distancing, increased ventilation) were in place in the K–12 school setting. This exception does not apply to teachers, staff, or other adults in the indoor classroom setting and it only applies to indoor classroom settings during school hours. It does not apply to before- or after-school activities. It also does not apply to students less than 3 feet from the COVID-positive student. Those students are still considered close contacts."

AACPS says it will only accept test results from a professional medical lab. The popular new home kits available over the counter will not be considered valid. You are encouraged to read all the of the guidelines as they are very specific to certain circumstances. Read the entire list of updated guidelines on contact tracing, COVID testing and quarantines from AACPS below.

The website https://www.aacps.org/contacttracing has additional resources for families and staff, including letters from each school currently affected.  

See the AACPS COVID-19 Dashboard here.

NEW INFORMATION EFFECTIVE MONDAY, OCTOBER 11, 2021:

After further consultation with the Anne Arundel County Department of Health, our school system is adopting a new protocol regarding student and staff quarantines. Beginning Monday, October 11, 2021, students and staff quarantined because of exposure to someone who is COVID-19 positive, with limited exceptions, can end their quarantine earlier than the normal 10-day period provided they get a negative test. The exposure can come as a result of being a close contact or being quarantined due to an outbreak. Those who are COVID-positive must isolate, and cannot test out of their isolation early.

To end quarantine early, a student or staff member must have a negative test administered between days 5 and 7 of quarantine. The test cannot be a home rapid test. If the test result is negative, the student or staff member can return to school or work on the day after Day 7 of quarantine (not on Day 7 of quarantine) provided they are symptom-free. Documentation of the negative test must be provided to the school before the student can return.

When a person meets these criteria and quarantine is ended early, all of the following must be implemented:

  • Daily symptom monitoring continues through Day 14; AND
  • Persons are counseled regarding the need to adhere strictly to all recommended mitigation strategies including correct and consistent face mask use, physical distancing, and self-monitoring for symptoms of COVID- 19 through Day 14; AND
  • Persons are advised that if any symptoms develop, they should immediately self-isolate and contact their health care provider to determine if they need to be tested and how long they should be excluded from work or school/child care.

This new protocol applies to students currently in quarantine as well as those who may be quarantined from October 11 forward. AACPS letters provided to those who are designated as close contacts and must quarantine will reflect this change, though some letters already in process may be delivered before the change is reflected.

Notes:

For persons who are unable to comply with correct and consistent face mask use such as young children and persons with a disability or medical condition that makes wearing a mask unsafe, a shorter quarantine option may NOT be used and these persons must quarantine for a full 14 days.

Close contacts of a COVID-positive person who are unable to isolate themselves away from that person may not test out of quarantine. In those cases, the quarantine of the close contact may not begin until after the 10-day isolation period of the COVID-positive person has ended.

What types of COVID-19 test results  does AACPS accept?

AACPS accepts rapid or PCR test results that are read by a medical professional and entered into the county or state health portal. This includes home PCR tests, but not home rapid tests. The latter is not read by a medical professional and results are not entered into the aforementioned portals. 

Answers to contact tracing questions

In what cases is contact tracing conducted?

AACPS conducts contact tracing in these cases:

  • When a person has a lab-confirmed COVID-19 positive test (rapid or PCR test)
  • When a person is designated a “probable case,” which occurs when an individual with COVID-19 symptoms is found to have had close contact with someone who is positive.
  • When a person is designated as having “COVID-19 Symptoms” and does not get a tested or doctor’s note explaining an alternate medical diagnosis within 72 hours of the onset of symptoms.

For contact tracing purposes, all of the above instances are treated as postiive cases.

What is the exposure period?

When the COVID-positive case involves a symptomatic person, the exposure period begins 48 hours prior to the onset of symptoms.

When the COVID-positive case involves an asymptomatic person, the exposure period begins 48 hours prior to the date of the test (not the date of the delivery of results).

What is the definition of a close contact?

With some limited exceptions, those determined to have been within 6 feet of the COVID-positive person for 15 total (not consecutive) minutes over a 24-hour period are identified as “close contacts.”

When must a close contact quarantine?

Close contacts who are unable to be vaccinated, who have not been vaccinated, or who have not had COVID in the last 90 days must quarantine for 10 days. Effective October 11, 2021, The quarantine period can be shortened by a negative test as described above.

When is a close contact excluded from quarantine?

If a close contact is fully vaccinated for more than 14 days or who has had COVID in the last 90 days and is asymptomatic, that person does not have to quarantine. However, that person must mask in public indoor settings for 14 days and is recommended to be tested 3 to 5 days from exposure. Masking (except where required by AACPS) can be removed upon receipt of an negative test. AACPS requires proof of vaccination status for this quarantine exclusion to apply.

Is there a close contact exception for students in classrooms?

Yes. According to guidance from the CDC, in the K–12 indoor classroom setting, the “close contact” definition excludes students who were within 3 to 6 feet of an infected student (not adult) where both students were engaged in consistent and correct use of well-fitting masks; and other K-12 school prevention strategies (such as universal and correct mask use, physical distancing, increased ventilation) were in place in the K–12 school setting. This exception does not apply to teachers, staff, or other adults in the indoor classroom setting and it only applies to indoor classroom settings during school hours. It does not apply to before- or after-school activities. It also does not apply to students less than 3 feet from the COVID-positive student. Those students are still considered close contacts.

How are families and employees notified of positive COVID-19 cases and close contacts?

When there is a COVID-19 positive case in an AACPS school or office, those in the school or directly impacted office will be notified. Employees and families of students who are close contacts are notified individually. In the event of a COVID-19 case at a school, families and employees at the school will receive a communication providing as many details as possible. Due to health privacy provisions, in most cases the information provided will not include the exact classroom in which a case occurs. 

COVID-19 outbreaks

In instances where there are multiple laboratory-confirmed positive cases of COVID-19, the Anne Arundel County Department of Health, in consultation with the Maryland Department of Health, may declare an “outbreak.”

An outbreak is defined as: Two or more laboratory-confirmed positive cases of COVID-19 in the same cohort in a 14-day period and in which there is no known exposure to a positive case outside the cohort. A cohort can be a class, a grade, a team or other group, etc. The makeup of the cohort may be vary depending on the circumstances of the individual case.

Once an outbreak is declared, the Anne Arundel County Department of Health will offer guidance as to two potential next steps:

In instances where the second or subsequent case is either a close contact of the first and has not been quarantining or has not been declared a close contact of the first and, therefore, has not been quarantining: the Department of Health will evaluate all non-vaccinated persons in the cohort for quarantine.

In instances where the second or subsequent case is either a close contact of the first and has not been quarantining or has not been declared a close contact of the first and, therefore, has not been quarantining: the Department of Health may opt to quarantine all non-vaccinated persons in the cohort for 10 days from the date of the last exposure to a positive person.

Those quarantining due to an outbreak are not necessariliy close contacts of the person who is COVID-positive. 

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