Hawaiʻi K-12 school guidance updated, quarantine reduced to align with CDC
* Updated January 12, 7:52 PM
The Hawai‘i Department of Health today announced it has updated the interim COVID-19 isolation and quarantine guidance for K-12 schools. The updated guidance is closely aligned with new CDC guidance for schools, with isolation and quarantine times for students and staff who meet certain conditions, reduced to five days.
The DOH outlined the updated guidance below:
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 in a department press release.
“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.”
12% of the teaching workforce is out; Half are sick
Superintendent Hayashi said the HIDOE continues to monitor teacher absences statewide. He provided some insight during a press briefing on Tuesday morning saying, “Preliminary numbers show teacher absences are starting to decline slightly from last week’s level. It’s still about 12% though of our teacher workforce that’s out. Approximately half are sick and half are out for other reasons that could include things like vacation, family leave, personal leave, and vacant positions.”
He continued saying, “Our school administrators, non teaching staff, are assisting along with complex area staff in helping to address the need for substitutes. Other teachers have been willing to help support and cover, and our state office staff are also standing by to assist.”
As for students Hayashi said, “As far as case counts in our schools, from Dec. 1-9, which was the end of last year, there was a daily average of about 81 cases confirmed across 42,000 staff and 160,000 students across the state–totaling about 1.6% across students and staff, including the recent increases after winter break.”
“We are definitely monitoring those numbers. That was prior to the break. While some schools are seeing drops in student attendance, preliminary data that we’re taking a look at and we’re monitoring, shows most of our schools are actually holding steady, or in some cases, actually seeing a boost in attendance this week compared to last week. By geographic region, about nine of our 15 complexes, student attendance overall in the complex is up, which indicates our schools are working hard in trying to do everything they can to ensure in-person learning is happening.”
“For the majority of the cases reported this week, the individuals were not on campus during the infectious period due to the winter break,” said Superintendent Hayashi.
Additional mitigation measures:
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,” according to department officials.
*This post was updated to reflect information shared in a department press briefing on Tuesday morning.