COLUMBIA, S.C. — The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) on Sunday updated its COVID-19 guidance for K-12 schools booklet to reflect the latest COVID data and trends. This recently updated guidance compliments the DHEC School and Childcare Exclusion List, which outlines the exclusion requirements for schools and child care settings for communicable diseases. The booklet provides information on quarantine and isolation periods for students and teachers and when they can safely return to the classroom in more specific scenarios. The goal of these changes is to keep as many children in school as possible, where most children learn best, while also ensuring students, teachers, and school staff are as safe as possible.
The updated guidance states that a close contact may shorten quarantine to five days if all these conditions are met: 1) they have no symptoms; 2) they test negative on a viral (PCR or antigen) test on Day 4 or later after the exposure; and 3) they must wear a mask through Day 10 at all times except when eating or drinking, or when outdoors and more than six feet from others.
Schools have two additional options for quarantine. When necessary, they may temporarily use a ten-day quarantine period, where a close contact can end quarantine after Day 10 without testing if the individual is not experiencing symptoms. Schools may also choose to implement a Test To Stay program, which can avoid the need for quarantine in many cases, though the ability to do this will be dependent on the availability of rapid test kits.
A student or staff member who is COVID-19 positive may return to school after Day 5 from symptom onset as long as they have no fever and their other symptoms are significantly improving, and they must wear a mask through Day 10. If someone ending isolation or quarantine early after five days chooses not to wear a mask, they must observe a 10-day isolation or quarantine period.
“We know there are obvious concerns about decreasing the number of recommended quarantine and isolation days during a time when cases are spiking,” said Dr. Brannon Traxler, DHEC Public Health Director. “But we are confident this guidance provides the best opportunity to keep students and teachers in the classroom without increasing exposure. The latest data and science show that these recommendations provide adequate timeframes to recover from COVID-19 and not spread the virus, with strong caveats based on consistent masking and lack of symptoms.”
In addition to updates to the school guidance, DHEC is adopting CDC’s recommendation for adults to receive a Moderna booster five months after their initial vaccination series. The announcement was made Friday, just two days after CDC dropped the Pfizer booster timeframe from six months to five months.
DHEC encourage COVID-19 vaccines for ages 5 and up and booster shots for all who are eligible. Find a vaccination site near you on our vaccine locator or by calling our Vaccine Information Line at 1-866-365-8110.