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Kent County Health Department issues Public Health Order to match state and federal guidelines

By Judy Reed

A child could be out of school for up to 15 days under the COVID-19 health order handed down by Kent and Ottawa Health Departments Tuesday.

The Kent and Ottawa County administrative health officers have revised the public health order of August 6, 2021 to reflect the latest COVID-19 guidance issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS). It will be in effect until the end of the school year.

This order applies to the K-12 setting and includes pre-schools and daycares as well as all higher education institutions.

The order is not easy reading and can be confusing.

Under number 1, it says that all persons, regardless of vaccination status, who test positive for COVID-19 or have been diagnosed with COVID-19 by a licensed health care provider are required to isolate at home. In Educational Settings that have a universal face mask policy, persons who are asymptomatic or fever-free without medication and with symptoms largely resolved may return to school wearing an appropriate well-fitting mask between days 6 and 10. In Educational Settings that do not have a universal face mask policy, persons must continue to isolate at home through day 10.

Number 2 is harder to decipher. The Post contacted Kent County and asked for them to clarify some of it. Cathy Armstrong Pubic Health Program Supervisor at KCHD, answered some of our questions.

2. The following quarantine requirements and exemptions will apply for household close contacts of a COVID-19 case:

a. Household close contacts required to quarantine must stay home during the household COVID-19 case’s full isolation period of at least 5 days and for a minimum of 5 days following the end of the household case’s isolation period. 

So this means five days of isolation, and five days of quarantine.

Household contacts may then return to the educational setting wearing an appropriate well-fitting face mask at all times on days 6 through 10 regardless of the educational setting’s face mask policy, monitoring daily for symptoms. If they are unable or unwilling to wear a face mask from days 6 through 10, they must quarantine at home for the entire 10 days from the end of the case’s isolation period. 

So how many days is this? 

“This is confusing because the wording isn’t too clear,” said Stuart. “Because isolation is 5 days and quarantine is 5 days (BUT may return to school if using a well-fitting, consistently worn mask for an additional 5 days) if they are not able/willing to wear a mask, they need to isolate the full normal 10 days.”

So we asked, “So now it says household contacts can return to school with a well fitting face mask days 6-10. So that’s an exception to the 10 day rule?” 

“This would technically be days 11-15,” said Stuart. 

She explained that if the child did not want to wear a mask to school, it would be 5 days of isolation, and 10 days of quarantine for a total of 15 days at home.

These quarantine requirements apply to the persons in the categories below:

i. If they are 18 and older and have not received all recommended vaccine doses, including boosters and additional shots for some immunocompromised people, or

ii. If they are ages 5-17 and have not completed the primary series of COVID-19 vaccines, or

iii. If they are persons of any age who have not had confirmed COVID-19 within the last 90 days.

Read the entire public health order at https://www.accesskent.com/Health/pdf/COVID-19/covid19-prevention-in-educational-settings_01122022.pdf.

The Kent County Health Department and the Ottawa County Department of Public Health strongly recommend that schools implement policies that follow the CDC guidance which can be found at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/schools-childcare/k-12-guidance.html

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