Department of Health issues interim K-12 school guidance
Recommended isolation & quarantine times reduced
News Release from DoH, January 11, 2022
HONOLULU – The Hawai‘i Department of Health (DOH) has updated interim COVID-19 isolation and quarantine guidance for K-12 schools. The updated guidance is closely aligned with new CDC guidance for schools.
Isolation and quarantine times for students and staff who meet certain conditions have been reduced to 5 days.
Students and staff who test positive for COVID-19 or have COVID-19 symptoms should isolate for five days regardless of their vaccination status. They can return to school when all the following conditions are met:
Five full days have passed since symptoms first appeared or since test was conducted.
No fever for 24 hours.
Symptoms have improved.
Students and staff who have been in close contact with a person who has COVID-19 should quarantine for five days after last contact if:
They have not completed their primary vaccine series (2 shots Pfizer or Moderna, 1 shot J&J).
They are 18 or older and have completed their primary vaccine series but have not received a recommended booster when eligible.
Students and staff should get tested on day five of quarantine, even if they do not have symptoms.
Students and staff are not required to quarantine if:
They are ages 5-17 and have completed their primary series of COVID-19 vaccines (2 shots Pfizer or Moderna).
They are 18 and older and have received all recommended vaccine doses including boosters.
“School have the tools they need to help keep students safe from COVID-19. Vaccines, boosters, masks, and cohorting all contribute to a safe environment,” said State Epidemiologist Dr. Sarah Kemble.
"The reduced isolation and quarantine guidance supports our efforts to continue to prioritize in-person learning while upholding safety protocols in our schools," interim Superintendent Keith Hayashi said. "The revisions also recognize the protection that vaccinations provide for staff and students, and the added protection boosters provide for eligible staff. More than 90% of HIDOE employees are vaccinated and we continue to support efforts to make vaccinations accessible in our schools along with COVID testing opportunities."
Everyone, regardless of vaccination status, is required to wear well-fitting masks in all indoor settings and in outdoor settings where crowding may occur. Masks may be removed when actively eating and drinking and during nap time for young children.
Anyone who develops symptoms should self-isolate immediately and get tested.
DOH will continue to update guidance based on best practices and the latest scientific information.
Vaccination and testing options are available at hawaiicovid19.com
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Schools scrambling without direction from HIDOE as omicron cases surge
New guidance reduces confusion, but inconsistent protocols remain
News Release from HSTA, January 11, 2022
The Hawaii Department of Health (DOH) released Tuesday updated guidance for K–12 schools that reflects new recommendations from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Shortly after, the Hawaii State Department of Education (HIDOE) released updated Return to School/Work Criteria for students and staff.
State Epidemiologist Dr. Sarah Kemble said, “One of the things they’re (CDC) citing is that it looks like omicron may have a shorter infectious period and a shorter incubation period, and so that’s one of the things that’s been very closely examined… I think that’s part of the feeling that a shortened isolation and quarantine may be justified.”
Since school resumed, some of the Hawaii State Teachers Association’s members have been receiving conflicting information. Just this week, one teacher was told to quarantine for 10 days by a DOH contact tracer versus five days by her principal. The HSTA hears that others were being told by the DOH that adults can return after five days “to sustain the workforce,” but that children need to remain home for 10 days.
HSTA has and continues to support science-driven guidance when it comes to COVID-19 response protocols.
Unfortunately, with omicron cases soaring, the HIDOE still appears woefully unprepared to manage staffing and COVID-19 response with entire classes moved to cafeterias, gyms, or auditoriums given teacher absences and substitute shortage. Sometimes the classes of six to eight teachers are all being moved into those large facilities, meaning 100 to 200 or more students are being supervised by just or two adults with little adherence to social distancing guidelines.
“What we see is very reactive and not proactive,” said HSTA President Osa Tui, Jr. “Many of our classes are starting to see more than half the class missing and teachers who are in school are having a hard time starting new lessons with so many students out. How is this acting in the best interests of our students?
“Students continue to be warehoused in cafeterias and auditoriums while staffing shortages grow,” he said. “We now see schools like Sunset Beach Elementary having to move to distance learning for the rest of the week. These things are being implemented unilaterally and should follow some type of guidelines that get worked out.
“We also would like to make sure that there is rapid testing in every school,” Tui added. “The department says that yes, we have testing available, but it’s not in every school at any given time. A teacher can’t say, ‘Hey, you look like you’re symptomatic. You’ve got a cough. Go down to the health room and take a test so that we can see if you should be staying on campus or not.’ That should be widespread and it should have been something that the department was planning for long, long ago.
Tui said, “Interim Superintendent Hayashi and the HIDOE continue to be out of touch with the reality in our schools where social distancing is not happening and students are on their phones and not engaging in sustained silent reading while not getting the education they’re supposed to be going to school for.”
HSTA has repeatedly demanded that the HIDOE sit down with us to work out guidelines that schools can follow should there be a need to change modes of instruction. We are now seeing schools scrambling to come up with their own protocols as more and more students and staff do not show up to our campuses.
“We continue to be ready to sit down with the department to work these things out during this crisis and in anticipation for possibly something worse to come,” Tui said.
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SA: New guidance for Hawaii schools cuts isolation, quarantine in half
HNN: State slashes quarantine requirements to get teachers back in the classroom faster
KHON: DOH reduces recommended isolation, quarantine for K through 12