S.D. Department of Education: 14-day quarantine for COVID-19 close contacts a recommendation, but not required

KELOLAND.com Original

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — New information is discovered and recommendations constantly change regarding COVID-19.

One thing that has remained constant throughout most of the pandemic is the required 14-day quarantine if you come into close contact with someone who has COVID-19.

But recently, the South Dakota Department of Education notified school districts in the state that the 14-day quarantine is a recommendation, not a requirement. South Dakota Secretary of Health Kim Malsam-Rysdon explained during Monday’s media call school boards have the final decision making ability as to whether districts follow the recommendations.

In an email to KELOLAND News, the Department of Education said it has recently clarified with school district leaders that they have the ability to determine whether they follow the 14-day quarantine guidance for close contacts in school settings or not.

On Friday, Sioux Falls School District officials said they will not be changing their protocols at this time.

The Harrisburg School District said in an email to parents that going forward, the school district will strongly recommend quarantining after coming into close contact. But if people choose to not follow those guidelines, they are able to be in school if they wear a mask during that recommended isolation period.

Tim Graf is the Superintendent for the Harrisburg School District. He said the district consulted with the school board, legal and medical experts before deciding to make the policy change.

“It’s really difficult for many families to quarantine, and if not impossible for some families. I think the other piece of that is if mask usage doesn’t count for something, I think that’s really frustrating to people. We know what the science is telling us about mask usage, and so we were seeing this as a way to increase mask usage and to promote honesty, transparency and increase mask usage,” Graf said.

Graf says it’s important for students to be back in school for numerous reasons.

“It’s a mental health issue. It’s an emotional health issue as well as the academic piece, so we want kids in school,” Graf said.

So far, the district has quarantined over 200 people since classes started at the end of August, and, according to Graff, one positive case has come from those quarantined.

“93% of our students have chosen on campus learning. Recognizing that and the need to be in school, we’re wrestling with how do we now pivot based on the change that the Department of Education rolled out and now making that a recommendation. And not to say that this (plan) won’t change down the road because we’ve said our plan is fluid as well,” Graf said.

Graf said every family is impacted differently. He says it’s important to remember we’re all in the same storm, but we’re not in the same boat.

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