Confusing and ever-changing: CDC quarantine guidelines impact schools

Guidelines+from+the+CDC+directly+affect+the+education+system+and+how+it+operates.

Jillian Keppy

Guidelines from the CDC directly affect the education system and how it operates.

Jillian Keppy, P.V. Only Editor

As the two-year mark of the start of the pandemic approaches, Americans are beginning to wonder when, if ever, COVID-19 will become a virus of the past. 

Cases are on the rise in the United States with new variants emerging and advancing quickly. However, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has announced new, more relaxed guidelines relating to quarantine periods after contracting COVID. If someone tests positive or is exposed to COVID, new guidelines require them to quarantine for five days, as long as they are no longer experiencing symptoms.

The CDC does still recommend that COVID-infected people, or people who were exposed to the virus, should continue to wear a well-fitting mask and avoid crowded spaces and gatherings for an additional five days after becoming asymptomatic. 

The idea that people are no longer required to quarantine while potentially still infectious was the main concern of several medical groups, one of those being the American Medical Association. “According to the CDC’s own rationale for shortened isolation periods for the general public, an estimated 31% of people remain infectious five days after a positive COVID-19 test,” the association said. “With hundreds of thousands of new cases daily and more than a million positive reported cases on January 3, tens of thousands—potentially hundreds of thousands of people—could return to work and school infectious.

Members of medial associations were not the only ones to be surprised by the laxed requirements. The new guidelines came as a shock to many, especially considering the contrast to previous guidelines which included a 10-day quarantine period. The timing of the announcement was also surprising due to the rapid spread of the Omicron variant, a highly contagious variant which produces more mild, cold-like symptoms. 

While these new guidelines may be confusing in the sense that new cases are becoming increasingly transmissible and difficult to detect, being able to return to daily routines while using necessary precaution will be convenient for U.S. schools. For students, missing up to 10 days of instruction is extremely detrimental to learning. Making up work from missing just one day of school can be difficult, but the repercussions of 10 missed days can be next to impossible to recover from. 

Senior Lizzie McVey missed seven days of school before winter break and has found herself drowning in makeup work with finals quickly approaching. “Because I didn’t have time to make up what I missed before break started, I have almost no time to make up unit tests before I need to start preparing for finals,” McVey said.

In an email sent out to parents following the CDC’s announcement, PV made it clear that the district would continue to follow the 10-day quarantine requirement for students and staff who test positive. While this decision protected the safety of the Spartan Nation, it continued to make returning to school post-quarantine strenuous for students around winter break. This decision has now been revoked, and the district recommends that students follow the CDC’s quarantine guidelines.

The repercussions of COVID have made for a confusing past two years in the education world, and recent developments including the shortened quarantine requirements from the CDC are no exception to that confusion. However, by following recommendations from the district, students can continue to be conscious of their own safety and strive to preserve the safety of their peers as they enter the second semester of the school year.