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South Carolina parents want changes for ‘excessive’ quarantines for students

DHEC requires every child who is considered a close contact to quarantine and the few exceptions do not qualify for all students.
Published: Sep. 7, 2021 at 7:34 PM EDT
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YORK COUNTY, S.C. (WBTV) -Thousands of South Carolina K-12 students are in quarantine, and some parents are calling them excessive.

Ashley Denny and her kindergartener walked around downtown Clover on Tuesday. They were together for the day since Denny’s other daughter tested positive for COVID-19.

”I definitely think it’s harder especially with elementary students, they need to be in the classroom,” says Denny.

Denny says her daughter is not sick but rather what the Department of Health and Environmental Control calls a household contact. That means a 24-day quarantine for her.

”They are losing out on class time - I mean a month is a very long time,” she says. “With the potential to be out another 14 days.”

”I mean it’s disheartening,” says Sarah Haight.

Haight’s going through a similar 14-day quarantine with her autistic high schooler. She feels he is missing out on crucial learning.

”I mean we moved here so he could get a good education and now I feel like that’s being ripped back away from him,” she says.

DHEC requires every child who is considered a close contact to quarantine and the few exceptions do not qualify for all students. DHEC submitted guidance to schools before the school year began.

The CDC defines close contacts as anyone who comes within six feet of a person who tested positive for more than 15 minutes. If your child comes into close contact with someone who tested positive, the CDC recommends a 14-day quarantine, but DHEC gives districts two other options.

Students without symptoms can go back after 10 days or kids without symptoms and a negative test on day five can go back after seven days. DHEC recommends if the students come back earlier than 14 days, they should wear a mask. Most of the WBTV South Carolina school districts are following the 10 or 14-day quarantines.

There are only two exceptions to quarantine protocols - vaccinated people and those who had a positive COVID-19 test within 90 days. But most of the elementary students, who are at this point the most quarantined group in all of our districts, only fall under one of those exceptions.

”I think they are trying to go the strictest route possible,” says Denny. “They are trying to safeguard the students but also safeguard within their policies.”

Quarantining policy comes down to the district and how they interpret DHEC’s guidance. Most offer parents a 10 or 14-day quarantine but both these moms agree that should change.

”This is a tough time for us and I think they’re doing the best they can but I think there could be heavier conversations with DHEC,” she says.

Both parents agree the length of time needs a major overhaul, but DHEC says it based all its guidance from the CDC on what is currently know about COVID-19 and to curb massive widespread exposures.

”My biggest worry is he will keep coming home,” Denny explains. “He’s tested negative and he doesn’t have any symptoms but he’s still being forced to stay out of school.”

DHEC says the best way to have kids stay in school is to wear masks, but with a mask ban in place - it’s not a legal option for districts. These parents feel it is time to find a path to the new normal.

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