Michigan shortens quarantine, isolation time guidance for K-12 schools

Beth LeBlanc
The Detroit News

The state of Michigan issued new guidance Monday that will shorten quarantine and isolation periods for many students, faculty and staff. 

The guidance, issued by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services Monday, brings Michigan schools closer in line with recommendations by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which have shortened most isolation and quarantine recommendations from 10 days to five. 

Before Monday's guidance was issued, Michigan schools operated under recommendations that required unvaccinated students exposed to a nearby COVID-positive student to either "test to stay" or quarantine seven to 10 days, depending on the circumstances. People displaying COVID-19 symptoms were required to isolate and test with return dates determined by local health departments.  

A kindergartener gives social worker Deb Doyle a high-five after he completes a task at the elementary school in Paw Paw, Michigan, on Thursday, Dec. 2, 2021. The Michigan health department has changed COVID-19 quarantine and isolation recommendations for K-12 schools.

Monday's guidance would give shorter timelines for those activities.

“We always advocate for preventative measures that keep our children safe,” said Dr. Natasha Bagdasarian, chief medical executive for the state health department. “Children of school age — ages 5 and up — are now eligible to get vaccinated, and children ages 12 and up are eligible to get boosted. In addition to masking and testing, we feel confident that schools can remain as safe as possible for our children.”

The CDC in late December cut isolation restrictions for COVID-positive individuals whose symptoms improved or who showed no symptoms from 10 to five days and made similar decreases to quarantine time. The state said shortly afterward that it would evaluate the federal guidance to determine what changes would be made to Michigan K-12 guidelines.

The new guidance issued Monday by the state allows teachers, students and staff who develop COVID symptoms or test positive for the virus to isolate at home for five days and, if symptoms have improved, to return to school while wearing a well-fitted mask for days six through 10. 

The guidance eliminates quarantine for those exposed to a COVID-positive individual if the exposed person had COVID-19 within the last 90 days or if they are up to date on all COVID vaccines. Those individuals should monitor for symptoms and wear a mask to school for 10 days after exposure, according to the state health department.

People exposed to COVID who have not had a recent case or are not fully vaccinated should quarantine for five days and wear a mask for days six through 10. Or those individuals can "test to stay" for days one through six and mask up for the full 10 days. 

If at any point during quarantine, an individual develops symptoms that person should test and isolate pending the results of the test. Individuals who do not develop symptoms post-exposure should get tested at least five days after exposure. 

Anyone unwilling to wear a mask should quarantine or isolate at home for the full 10 days. 

The state's announcement came as the state set a record for the highest number of adult patients hospitalized with COVID-19 — 4,581 — since the pandemic began.

As of Monday, 108 hospitalized children had confirmed or suspected COVID-19 cases.

Michigan on Monday added 44,524 confirmed cases of COVID-19 over three days, a continued influx in confirmed cases believed to be driven by the highly contagious omicron variant.