DC clarifying COVID-19 quarantine guidance for students

D.C. Health is clarifying its quarantine guidance to provide greater details on what families and students should do if a child tests positive for the coronavirus.

Specifically, if a student tests positive, “siblings who reside in the same household as the positive student are considered close contacts and must quarantine,” D.C. Health Director Dr. LaQuandra Nesbitt wrote after At-Large D.C. Council member Christina Henderson sent the agency a letter asking for more information.

“We are updating the Guidance for Schools to clarify the treatment of siblings in much greater detail.”

The updated guidance is expected to be finalized within the next week. The clarifications are expected after parents, educators and council members expressed frustration with confusion about current guidelines during a hearing on Tuesday.

According to D.C. Health, added guidance is that “contacts of a contact” do not have to quarantine.

For example, “if Sibling A is identified as a close contact of a positive case in the school, and Sibling B is not themselves a close contact, Sibling B does not have to quarantine, unless Sibling A subsequently tests positive.”

The city said the new details clarify existing policies and don’t reflect a policy change.

“Household members including siblings have always been considered close contacts by our guidances. What is occurring in the update is that D.C. Health will be elaborating on the current guidance to provide more explicit granular instruction to Schools as how to handle multiple different scenarios involving siblings in response to requests,” the agency said.

Other new information in the letter includes why saliva-based tests are being used in schools instead of nasal swabs.

“Saliva-based tests are typically less costly, are efficient and less intrusive,” Nesbitt wrote.

As for why rapid tests aren’t being provided for at-home use, Nesbitt said there’s a shortage and a lack of consistency.

“Currently, rapid tests are not readily available in large quantities for deployment at multiple sites readily accessible throughout the city,” she wrote. “Furthermore, rapid antigen tests lack consistent reporting tools for timely follow up with the DC Contact Trace Force. Based on President Biden’s announcement, we expect that rapid antigen tests will become more available on the commercial marketplace in the weeks to come.”

Safety protocol for D.C. schools is available online.

More Coronavirus News

Looking for more information? D.C., Maryland and Virginia are each releasing more data every day. Visit their official sites here: Virginia | Maryland | D.C.

Will Vitka

William Vitka is a Digital Editor and reporter for WTOP.com. He's been in the news industry for over a decade. Before joining WTOP, he worked for CBS News, Stuff Magazine, The New York Post and wrote a variety of books—about a dozen of them, with more to come.

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