DPH responds to Bulloch County Schools superintendent request on quarantine protocols

Coronavirus

STATESBORO, Ga. (WSAV) – An exchange over quarantine protocols between Bulloch County Schools and the Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH) continues.

At a school board meeting on Oct. 8, members unanimously approved a motion that would allow a student who was exposed to COVID-19 to either quarantine at home or remain in school.

The student would only be allowed to return if they were wearing a mask at the time of exposure, remained asymptomatic and continued wearing a mask.

This went into effect at all schools on Oct. 9, but a few days later, DPH Commissioner Dr. Kathleen Toomey requested the board to rescind the action, saying it violated Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines and legal requirements.

On Oct. 14, the district suspended any further action on implementing the new quarantine guidelines.

Wilson then wrote to DPH asking for a revision on guidelines regarding how students are quarantined. He expressed frustration that the order doesn’t give parents options and isn’t enforced “equally and appropriately” across the state.

In his request, Wilson asked DPH to revise its order “to include language that allows PK-12 students in the state ‘who are wearing a mask at the time of close contact in a school setting with a COVID-19-positive individual, and who then continue to wear a mask when not able to maintain a six-foot distance from others, and who also remain asymptomatic during the typically designated quarantine period, be allowed to remain in school for the sake of their academic, extracurricular, and social-emotional wellbeing.'”

Toomey wrote back, saying DPH “remains steadfast” in its quarantine guidance.

“Currently, the CDC recommends that any close contacts of infected individuals quarantine for 14 days, regardless of whether or not they were wearing a mask at the time of the encounter,” Toomey continued. “We will continue to follow those guidelines until the CDC recommends a different approach.”

The commissioner said DPH is unaware of other districts that are not following the CDC’s recommendation to quarantine for 14 days, regardless of masking.

“If notified of a school district that is not in compliance, we will take immediate action,” Toomey stated. “We strive for a consistent, science-based approach to preventing the spread of COVID-19 in our schools across all 159 counties of Georgia.”

The school board is expected to further discuss the issue at its work session on Thursday.

The meeting is at 6:30 p.m. in the cafetorium of the school district’s Central Office (150 Williams Road). The session will also be livestreamed online.

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