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Michigan follows CDC lead, cuts quarantine guidance for schools

Michigan students who test positive for COVID -19 could return to in-class learning after five days instead of 10 days, under new state guidance issued Monday.

The recommendations from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services align with those last week from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.

The guidance is an effort to keep children in classrooms as the pandemic stretches into its third year, prompting concerns about lost learning from remote schooling and confusion and anger among parents over quarantine rules for exposures.

“Kids (should be) in school in person as much as possible —  both for their own development and learning and also for their families,” said Elizabeth Hertel, director of Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, said during a Tuesday news conference.

“If we can continue to make sure these kids are vaccinated as well as teachers, they’re masking and following the protocols that have been laid out, I think schools should safely remain in-person if they can.”


It is up to local school districts whether they follow the guidance.

The new guidelines recommend that students, teachers and staff who test positive for COVID: 

  • Isolate regardless of vaccination status and monitor symptoms for 10 days.
  • Return to school on the sixth day if symptoms improve or don't develop, but wear a mask for five additional days.
  • Stay home for 10 days if they aren’t willing to wear a mask at school.

The new recommendations also update quarantine guidance for those who are exposed to COVID:

  • Close contacts do not need to quarantine at home if they had a confirmed COVID-19 within 90 days and/or have had all eligible COVID-19 vaccines
  • Those who aren’t vaccinated or recently had COVID have a choice: They can quarantine for five days, then return to school wearing a mask for five more days — or they can test to stay in school for the first five days and mask up for the full 10 days.
  • Stay home for 10 days if they are unwilling to wear a mask.

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services also provided a chart outlining the steps for quarantine guidance here.

The updated guidance strikes a balance — laying out a “better, safer way” to return to everyday activities while curbing the worst of the disease spread, said Dr. Jennifer Morse, medical director for District Health Department #10 and the Central Michigan District Health Department.

“We do have good evidence that people are most contagious two days before they show symptoms and three days after they show symptoms,” she said at a news conference for Traverse City-based Munson Healthcare.

People may be contagious on other days, too, but much less so, she said.

“This is basically following (an understanding) that the majority of people are most likely contagious in the beginning,” of their infection, Morse said.

Bridge reporter Mike Wilkinson contributed to this report.


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