The Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH) is following the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) new COVID-19 recommendations for schools and updated quarantine and isolation guidance for adults.
The CDC guidance acknowledges that the pandemic is not over, but also helps move to a point where COVID-19 no longer severely disrupts daily lives. The CDC has relaxed its COVID-19 guidance for members of the public who are exposed or infected to try to minimize the disruption to their lives.
Schools are no longer recommended to use cohorts, quarantines and screening testing in most situations. This is because there is a better understanding of how to protect people from being exposed to the virus, such as wearing high-quality masks, testing and improved ventilation. People with COVID-19 can spread the virus to others, and precautions are still needed to prevent spreading it to other people.
Masking continues to be recommended for everyone in schools in areas with a high COVID-19 community level. However, the CDC removed recommendations to keep students in the same groups or cohorts throughout the day. Routine screening testing is no longer needed but may be considered such as during high-risk activities in a high COVID-19 community level or when there is an outbreak. Students and staff exposed to COVID-19 no longer need to quarantine unless they are in high-risk congregate settings and should wear a mask for 10 days and get tested at least five days after exposure.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration advises people with and without symptoms to test multiple times if they get a negative result on an at-home COVID-19 antigen test due to the possibility of false-negative results.
The school guidance also calls on educators to make reasonable modifications to ensure children with disabilities and special health care needs can access in-person education. These may include masking in classrooms or during activities and other prevention strategies to provide a safe environment. These students should not be placed into separate classrooms or segregated from other students.
For the public, the most significant changes in guidance are around quarantine and isolation. People who are exposed to COVID-19 no longer need to quarantine regardless of vaccination status. They should wear a mask for 10 days when in indoor public places and get tested at least five days after exposure. If they are symptomatic, they should get tested sooner.
People with COVID-19 symptoms or infection should isolate from others even if they are waiting for test results. Those who are infected should stay in isolation for at least five days. They can end isolation on day six if they are fever-free for at least 24 hours without medication and their symptoms are improving. They should continue to wear a mask around other people at home and in the public through day 10 or until they have two consecutive negative antigen tests taken at least 48 hours apart.
Regardless of when isolation ends, the CDC recommends avoiding people who are at high risk of severe illness until at least day 11. If symptoms worsen after ending isolation, restart the isolation at day 0.
People with moderate illness (including shortness of breath or difficulty breathing), severe illness (hospitalization) or a weakened immune system should isolate through day 10. Those with severe illness or a weakened immune system should consult their healthcare provider before ending isolation.
The CDC no longer recommends screening asymptomatic people without known exposures unless they are in a high-risk setting.
COVID-19 community levels are updated weekly at: https://alpublichealth.maps.arcgis.com/apps/MapSeries/index.html?appid=d84846411471404c83313bfe7ab2a367
For more information on COVID-19, visit https://cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-nCoV/ or https://www.alabamapublichealth.gov/covid19/ .