The West Virginia Department of Education has released new guidelines limiting when a school should enter into a widespread contact tracing quarantine.
School leaders said these revised rules, which were created in conjunction with the Department of Health and Human Resources (DHHR), will help keep children in the classroom for in-person learning instead of closing entire buildings due to a COVID-19 outbreak.
The state has not issued a mandate forcing schools to universally require masks, instead, continuing to allow local control by school boards and local health officials.
The updated rules no longer require a school to quarantine students or staff if an universal mask policy is in place. Contact tracing would only be needed if someone was exposed in the cafeteria or during another extracurricular activity where people are not wearing masks. The state recommends schools limit potential exposure by having students eat in a group of friends or in their classroom.
Schools that do not have a universal mask policy will still have to quarantine students and staff who are not fully vaccinated. However, schools should now only quarantine people who were within 6 feet of an infected person in a classroom, on a bus or in the cafeteria -- instead of placing an entire classroom in quarantine under the current rules.
The definitions of a school outbreak has also been changed to keep buildings open if there is a manageable number of cases. A school outbreak will only be declared if more than three cases, or 10%, of students or staff in a specific group test positive for COVID-19. Schools can now only be closed if so many teachers are out sick that it becomes unsafe to hold in-person instruction or double the normal amount of students are absent.