Quarantine of cohorts/pods

Promoting Healthy Hygiene Practices/Behaviors that Reduce Spread > Quarantine of cohorts/pods

Quarantine is a public health practice used to prevent exposure to individuals who are suspected or confirmed to have a contagious disease such as COVID-19. Cohorts of students and staff may need to quarantine if an individual in the cohort is suspected or confirmed to have COVID-19. Identifying contacts of an individual who is suspected or confirmed to have COVID-19 and ensuring they do not interact with others is critical to protect the school community from further spread.

The role of the school nurse in quarantining may vary depending on the resources available in your school and community. School nurses may participate in activities such as assessing students for symptoms of COVID-19, monitoring students while in isolation, contact tracing and ensuring students meet criteria to return to school after quarantining at home. It is important to collaborate with school leaders and your local health department to understand your role as the school nurse.

Key Considerations:

  • Collaborate with your local public health department to determine the final decisions about how long quarantine should last, based on local conditions and needs.
  • Collaborate with your local health department when a school employee or student has a confirmed COVID19 case identified, during case investigation of school-related exposures to COVID-19 b and contact tracing support activities.
  • Develop a plan to identify and notify close contacts of students and staff within the school and maintain confidentiality of the COVID-19 confirmed individual.
    • Consult with public health officials and legal counsel to determine how best to conduct case investigations and contact tracing involving minors, as well as permissions necessary.
  • Develop a communication plan to immediately identify and inform close contacts (staff and parents/guardians/students) of their exposure to the COVID-19 positive individual, assess their symptoms and exposure risk, and provide instructions for next steps such as quarantining, testing and care if symptoms are present.
  • Individuals who have been in close contact with someone who has COVID-19 is recommended to quarantine for at least 10 - 14 days.
    • A close contact is defined as being within 6 feet of a COVID-19 infected person, with or without a mask, for a cumulative total of 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period starting from 2 days before illness onset (or, for asymptomatic patients, 2 days prior to test specimen collection) until the time the infected person is isolated.
  • When a COVID-19 positive student or staff case is identified within a cohort, consider the following:
    • Identify all students and staff exposed (close contacts) to the COVID-19 positive individual.
    • Collaborate with your school leaders and/or local health department to determine the timeframe close contacts are to quarantine. Close contacts are usually able to return 10-14 days from the last exposure to the COVID-19 positive if the close contact does not develop symptoms, or as instructed by your local health department.
    • Close contacts should continue to monitor for symptoms for a minimum of 14 days after the last exposure to the COVID-19 positive individual.
      Provide information to close contacts for receiving COVID-19 PCR testing in the case they develop symptoms (fever 100.4 F, cough, shortness of breath) during self-quarantining.
    • Close contact individuals must continue to quarantine while awaiting test results.
    • If the symptomatic individual’s test results are confirmed negative with a PCR test, meet symptom-based criteria to return, and have completed the minimum days of self-quarantine required, this individual may return to school.
    • If the symptomatic individual’s test results are positive, this individual who is infected with the virus must isolate, or stay away from others, even in their home. The infected individual may return after meeting symptom-based criteria and after at least 10 days after symptoms first appeared.
    • If a close contact is asymptomatic and tests positive for COVID-19, this individual may return to school 10 days from the day of the positive test result.
  • Isolation is used to separate students or staff infected with COVID-19 from those who are not infected. At school or home, anyone sick or infected should separate from others, stay in a specific “sick room” or area, and use a separate bathroom (if available).
  • Consider educating staff, students, and families about the process and importance of participating in case investigation and contact tracing process.
  • Advocate for leave and flexible work policies to support isolation of individuals who are exposed or infected with COVID-19.

CDC Resources

Considerations for Case Investigation and Contact Tracing in K-12 Schools and Institutions of Higher Education (IHEs)

Information for School Nurses and Other Healthcare Personnel (HCP) Working in Schools and Child Care Settings

Case Investigation and Contact Tracing : Part of a Multipronged Approach to Fight the COVID-19 Pandemic

When to Quarantine

Isolate If You Are Sick

What’s the difference between quarantine and isolation? (Video)

State, Territorial, Local and Tribal Health Department Search

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