SC health and education officials release latest COVID guidelines

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A medical worker holds a coronavirus COVID-19 NP OP swab specimen test kit and nasal collection equipment.

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Like parents and teachers in our great state, the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control and the South Carolina Department of Education are committed to keeping children in the school where they learn best, while protecting them from COVID-19.

Much attention has been paid to quarantine and isolation guidelines for K-12 schools, and rightly so. Using the latest scientific evidence and very valuable input from parents and schools, DHEC, in coordination with the Department of Education, has developed guidelines for schools designed to keep children healthy in classrooms. and teachers at work.

Unfortunately, there has been some confusion as to what guidance requires and when children should actually be out of school.

To clear up the confusion, our advice is simple: no child without symptoms should be quarantined if they wear a mask for 10 days and are tested between five to seven days after exposure or are fully vaccinated. The test can be done by parents using a rapid home or school test.

We call this program “Test to Stay” and is it backed by the latest scientific evidence. The goal of DHEC advice is to have only sick or contagious students and school staff at home, not healthy students.

Our guidance enables parents and school officials to do just that, while keeping children, teachers and staff safe.

Our current guidelines virtually eliminate the need for quarantine, allowing nearly all students who have been exposed to COVID-19, who are asymptomatic, and who test negative to stay in school, where they learn best.

Additionally, we have also updated our teacher quarantine guidelines so that if a school finds itself in a staff crisis situation due to COVID-19, which means it would otherwise have to go virtual temporarily due to a shortage of staff, exposed teachers and staff without symptoms may be allowed to work in person during quarantine, although they must wear a mask for 10 days and be tested on the fifth day. This has already led to fewer schools switching to virtual teaching.

To help alleviate confusion, DHEC is working with the Department of Education to present this advice to our schools and parents in a clear and straightforward manner.

Test to Stay is available at all schools in South Carolina, although not all schools have implemented it. Many schools already have rapid tests they can administer at school, and the two departments are working together to make free at-home tests available to school districts that they can send home for parents to use. use.

Using a federal grant, DHEC ordered enough rapid tests (more than 1,600,000) to provide each K-12 student with two at no cost to the school or parents. The first delivery of these tests is arriving in schools this week.

Free rapid tests are also available for take-out and use at home from DHEC and federal government public health departments, in addition to being available for purchase at pharmacies and other stores.

For rapid tests that students choose to take home to be administered, we strongly encourage schools to accept a form from parents indicating that the test was conducted appropriately. This form is available on our website.

We encourage parents to inquire with their children’s schools about the Test to Stay program and free rapid tests. Additionally, we encourage everyone to get vaccinated and boosted, wear a mask when around other people indoors, and socially distance if possible.

Together, we can ensure that our children stay healthy and that those healthy students are where they are meant to be – in the classroom.

Molly Spearman is South Carolina Superintendent of Education and Dr. Edward Simmer is Director of the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control.

This story was originally published January 31, 2022 12:00 p.m.

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