YORK COUNTY, S.C. — On Monday, South Carolina’s Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) updated COVID-19 guidelines in schools statewide.
The changes come as the state continues to break records for daily COVID-19 case numbers. DHEC reported 12,827 new cases on Monday (10,758 confirmed, 2,069 probable), 5,234 new cases of COVID-19 (11,536 confirmed, 3,698 probable) on Sunday, and 16,630 new cases of COVID-19 (12,996 confirmed, 3,634 probable) on Saturday.
Less than a week after students returned to school from winter break, DHEC is updating guidelines. The biggest change comes to quarantine procedures.
The state says now a person identified as a close contact can quarantine for 5 days instead of 10, if they have no symptoms, TEST negative after day four of exposure, and wear a mask until day 10.
“We know there are obvious concerns about decreasing the number of recommended quarantine and isolation days during a time when cases are spiking,” Dr. Brannon Traxler, DHEC Public Health Director, said. "But we are confident this guidance provides the best opportunity to keep students and teachers in the classroom without increasing exposure."
Schools also have the option to implement the Test to Stay program, which means students and staff are regularly tested for COVID-19 even if they don’t have symptoms.
DHEC says this option allows for quarantines to be avoided in many cases, but it can only be implemented if there are enough rapid test kits.
Schools are also allowed to end quarantine without testing if a close contact goes into quarantine for 10 days and is not experiencing symptoms.
"The latest data and science show that these recommendations provide adequate timeframes to recover from COVID-19 and not spread the virus, with strong caveats based on consistent masking and lack of symptoms," Traxler said.
The changes are reflected in the state's COVID-19 guidance booklet for schools.