DHHS updates guidance for students with COVID-19 exposure

By: - September 8, 2021 2:41 pm

Detroit Public Schools Community District student at Ronald Brown Academy | Ken Coleman photo

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) has updated its recommendations for students who have been exposed to COVID-19 at school, depending on the student’s vaccination status, level of masking, social distancing and more.

The new guidance — which is not a mandate — comes as the Delta variant of COVID-19 continues to spread in Michigan, while many students are back to in-person learning. Children under 12 are not eligible for the COVID vaccine.

Michigan does not have a statewide mask mandate for schools. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s office on Wednesday said 229 school districts have a requirement, protecting more than 757,904 students, or 60.5%.

“When layered prevention strategies such as masking, distancing, testing, isolation and quarantine are applied consistently, school-associated transmission of COVID-19 is significantly reduced — which keeps kids in the classroom so they can learn,” said DHHS Director Elizabeth Hertel. 

“However, if someone is exposed to COVID at schools, it’s important for them to follow quarantine guidance to prevent spread to other children.”

Under the new guidelines, a student exposed to COVID-19 can remain in school if they:

  • Are vaccinated (with or without a mask) and came in close contact with a COVID-positive student
  • Are unvaccinated, masked and was exposed to a COVID-positive student who was also masked, so long as the students were at least three to six feet apart
  • Are unvaccinated, masked, and was exposed to a (masked) COVID-positive student less than three feet apart from them, as long as the student tests daily.

For all three scenarios, the exposed student can remain in school if they wear a mask and monitor symptoms for 14 days after exposure. For the first scenario, they should test for COVID-19 three to five days after the exposure.

For the last scenario, the exposed student should also test daily before coming into the school building for seven days following the exposure. If this daily testing cannot be completed, the student should not remain in school.

In any case, if an exposed student tests positive, they should isolate and follow directions from their local health department.

Under the new guidelines, unvaccinated students exposed to COVID-19 should not remain in school if:

  • The exposed student and/or the COVID-19 positive student were not wearing a mask
    • The exposed student should instead quarantine at home for 10 days and monitor symptoms for 14 days.
    • They may return after day seven if they test negative without symptoms, and may return after day 10 if they did not have any symptoms for that duration.
  • Both the exposed student and the COVID-positive student were masked, but less than three feet apart and the student does not test daily

In all cases, any individual displaying COVID-19 symptoms should be tested and isolated as directed, regardless of vaccination status.

“The best protection against COVID-19 are the three safe and effective vaccines we have available, and we urge all eligible Michiganders to get vaccinated,” said Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, DHHS chief medical executive and chief deputy for health. “As many of our students are too young to be vaccinated, masks are an important tool to prevent the spread of the virus and allow for in-person learning to continue uninterrupted.”

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Laina G. Stebbins
Laina G. Stebbins

Laina G. Stebbins is a former Michigan Advance reporter. A lifelong Michigander, she is a graduate of Michigan State University’s School of Journalism, where she served as Founding Editor of The Tab Michigan State and as a reporter for the Capital News Service.