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As Louisiana Returns to Phase 2, Superintendents Want Shorter Quarantine

November 24, 2020

As Louisiana moves back into a modified Phase 2 due to “the aggressive third surge of COVID-19 across all regions of Louisiana,” several Louisiana school superintendents are calling for “looser quarantine rules” for students who come into contact with individuals testing positive for coronavirus.

When Louisiana moved into Phase 3 on September 09, 2020, my school system chose to delay full, in-person learning for our high schools (and retaining a “hybrid” attendance schedule) until the beginning of the second quarter, November 09, 2020. I was able to arrange my classroom so that I could maintain six feet from my students and my student desks so that at most, a student testing positive was within six feet of only two other students.

By day three, students began being called out for quarantine. The cause?

Adults deciding to rent a party bus and create an off-campus Homecoming party for students.

In the end, one in three of my seniors ended up in either a confirmed or suspected quarantine for two weeks.

So, in reality, I taught full classes for only three days and then ended up teaching a partially-quarantined, partially-in-person, “hybrid” arrangement likely brought about by some of the very adults who insist that These Kids Need to be in School.

The Louisiana district superintendents who want to reduce the quarantine period have asked the state health department to alter its guidance; however, the Louisiana Department of Health (LDH) maintained that it would continue following guidance offered by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and subsequently adopted by Louisiana’s Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE).

The district superintendents argue that most students in quarantine are not becoming ill or testing positive for COVID-19, but health experts note that asympotmatic presentation does not mean the virus isn’t spreading.

Louisiana is back in Phase 2 precisely because the virus is spreading:

Cases are increasing, hospitalizations have climbed back up to more than 1,000, the highest level since August, and to date, the virus has claimed the lives of more than 6,300 Louisianans. According to the latest report by the White House Coronavirus Task Force, Louisiana had 474 new cases per 100,000 people last week, which is higher than the national average for states, which is 356 per 100,000 people.

Interestingly, however, it seems that the White House Coronavirus Task Force is considering reducing quarantine from 14 days to 10 days since very few infected individuals test positive after the 10-day mark. The CDC has yet to approve such a change, but if it does, presumably, LDH and BESE would also reduce the quarantine period.

Even so, given that we are in the holiday season, and given that people will gather, it is likely that school districts in Louisiana and beyond are only just entering the throes of quarantining. 

The question then becomes how long a school or district can manage a fragmenting, in-person experience until it is cornered into going virtual.

The writing is already on the holiday party walls.

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