Chicago Public Schools shortens quarantine to 5 days starting Feb. 1

Students and staff walk the halls of Senn High School, past a poster showing COVID-19 safety guidelines, on the first week back to classrooms on April 23, 2021.
Chicago Public Schools will shorten quarantine from 10 to five days starting Feb. 1. (Max Herman for Chalkbeat)

Chicago Public Schools will shorten its quarantine rules for students and staff from 10 days to five days starting Feb. 1.

District CEO Pedro Martinez said Tuesday the district would align its quarantine policy with updated guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which in December recommended isolation for five days, followed by strict mask-wearing for five days. 

The rules will apply to unvaccinated students who are a close contact with someone who tested positive for COVID or to any students and staff, regardless of vaccination status, who are instructed to quarantine or isolate after testing positive. Any student who tests positive after Feb. 1 will be able to return on the sixth day after symptoms have resolved or if they are asymptomatic, officials said.

Vaccinated students who have been in close contacts with someone who tested positive for COVID but who do not have symptoms do not have to quarantine.

Schools will take extra precautions with masking and social distancing when students return to campus during the subsequent five days, officials said. 

Dr. Alison Arwady, the city’s top health commissioner, said anyone who still exhibits symptoms cannot return to school. 

When students return, the district will pay extra attention to masking and possibly limit extracurriculars during days 6-10, Arwady said. 

Chicago Public Schools spokesperson said additional guidance would be shared with families before the policy is implemented.

Following changes to federal guidelines in December, school districts across the country have been wrestling with the question of how long to quarantine students. Other schools nationwide have already adopted a five-day quarantine. 

The Illinois State Board of Education last week aligned its quarantine guidance for unvaccinated students with the CDC, shortening isolation from 10 to five days as of Jan. 11.

In October, Chicago schools previously shortened its quarantine rules from 14 to 10 days for unvaccinated students.

The district currently requires unvaccinated students to quarantine for 10 days after known exposure to someone who is positive for COVID, such as a teacher or classmate. Other situations can trigger quarantines, such as travel on Chicago’s travel advisory.

Last week, Chicago Public Schools recorded a total of 2,278 student cases and 670 staff cases. As of Jan. 24, 19,414 students and 809 staff members were in quarantine, data shows.

Across the district, 53% of 12- to 17-year-old students are fully vaccinated, compared with 33.52% of 5- to 11-year-old students who have received one dose, officials said.

About 115,582 students are fully vaccinated and 148,066 students have at least one dose, officials said.

The district is continuing to ramp up testing and gathering consent for school-based COVID-testing, with a focus on schools that have yet to reach a 10 % percent threshold of unvaccinated students. CPS has received consent for more than 87,000 students to date, Martinez said.

District data shows a 2.5% positivity from the 53,407 tests administered between Jan. 16 and Jan. 22, data shows.

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