CDC says unvaccinated students exposed to virus can 'test and stay'

WASHINGTON – The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said on Friday that unvaccinated students exposed to the coronavirus can sta...


WASHINGTON – The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said on Friday that unvaccinated students exposed to the coronavirus can stay in school, as long as they are tested for the virus twice within a week and both tests come back negative .

The new guideline, known as the ‘test-to-stay’ protocol, could ease the burden on children who had to stay at home if close contact tested positive for the virus, and parents who had to scramble to get them back. school or find a daycare. It also aims to minimize disruption to learning, as two highly contagious variants of the virus spread across the country, causing some school closures and threatening to upset the strategies adopted by federal and state officials to resume face-to-face classes in the fall.

Although some schools and districts already use the test-to-stay approach, the CDC had not approved it before, citing a lack of evidence. On Friday, the agency released studies from two counties, one in California and one in Illinois, which actually tested the protocol and found it to work.

The studies were conducted before the fast-growing Omicron variant began to spread in the United States. Scientists are still investigating lots of basic questions on the variant, including whether it increases the risk of transmission at school.

“Even with the recent increase in the Omicron variant, we anticipate that these prevention strategies will continue to work,” Kristen Nordlund, a spokesperson for the CDC said in a statement Friday. “However, as we learn more about the Omicron variant, the CDC will continue to review and update the guidance as necessary.”

The new policy, mentioned in the Covid-19 winter plan that President Biden unveiled this month, still calls on students to wear masks and socially distance themselves, and only applies to those who remain asymptomatic. Until now, unvaccinated students had to stay in quarantine at home for up to two weeks after exposure. Some states have quarantined tens of thousands of students.

“While over 99% of schools are open now, we need to make sure we keep this going through the winter,” Biden said when announcing the plan. “We want our children to go to school.

Exposed vaccinated students have generally been allowed to stay in school as long as they are asymptomatic and wear a mask. CDC director Dr Rochelle P. Walensky told a press conference on Friday that students participating in testing programs to stay should be tested at least twice during the seven-day period following exposure. .

In one of the studies The CDC reported on Friday that students at Los Angeles County schools who did not participate in a pilot test-to-stay program and had to self-quarantine, lost about 92,455 days of in-person school September 20 to October 31 In schools participating in the pilot, students exposed to the virus did not lose a day. These schools also did not see an increase in virus rates among students.

In Lake County, Illinois, where the other study took place, the researchers estimated that up to 8,152 days of face-to-face learning were saved from August through October at schools that participated in the program. Of the 16 students in the program who tested positive for the virus within two weeks of exposure, none appeared to pass it on to others at school, according to the report.

California students were tested twice within a week of exposure; Illinois students were tested four times.

Dr Walensky said on Friday that the protocol was “now proven”. She added that because the “test to stay” had only been studied in schools, the CDC did not yet have evidence of its effectiveness in other settings.

Other studies have suggested that the test-to-stay approach may be safe. A randomized controlled trial included over 150 schools in Britain and found that case rates were not significantly higher in schools that allowed close contact of infected students or staff to stay in class with daily testing than in those that required at home quarantines.

Public health experts applauded the CDC’s approval, saying it struck the right balance between keeping children safe and allowing them to continue their learning in person.

“The Test-To-Stay programs are really good at balancing costs and benefits,” said Zoe M. McLaren, health policy expert at the School of Public Policy at the University of Maryland in Baltimore County.

Research suggests that the risk of transmission in schools is relatively low when schools take various precautions, including requiring masks and improving ventilation. But that research, like the two studies released by the CDC on Friday, was conducted before the emergence of the Omicron variant.

Still, strategies to protect children without closing schools or classrooms are needed, Dr McLaren said.

“As the pandemic continues to transform, we need to think very carefully about how we use long quarantines,” she said. “And quarantine children who are at low risk of exposure or at low risk of transmission – we really need to think about the trade-offs involved.”

While many parents are clamoring for schools to adopt testing programs to stay, others, especially those with children at higher risk for serious illness, are afraid to allow exposed students to stay in class. And some school nurses, who are often tasked with administering tests to students in test programs to stay, have found the workload overwhelming, especially when cases or exposures are high.

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Newsrust - US Top News: CDC says unvaccinated students exposed to virus can 'test and stay'
CDC says unvaccinated students exposed to virus can 'test and stay'
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