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Urbana school district sets five-day quarantine policy. Unit 4 sticks with ten.

Urbana School District COVID Coordinator Anitra Thomas processes student COVID test results in October 2020.

Students and staff at Urbana public schools only need to isolate for five days after testing positive for COVID-19.

District 116 made the change on Monday, after federal, state and local public health agencies all greenlighted the new quarantine guidance.

District 116 Superintendent Jennifer Ivory-Tatum said students and staff who are still sick with a fever or another key symptom are required to isolate longer than five days.

“It does seem wasteful to have someone sitting at home for ten days who has not been sick, has never had any symptoms and is no longer contagious. They want to come back to work and we want to have them,” Ivory-Tatum said.

The new five-day guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has been controversial. The American Medical Association said that the CDC should require negative COVID tests from those emerging from isolation. Neither the state nor the CDC have required tests so far. 

Parents have also been confused about the changing guidance and lag times as state and local agencies learn about the policy at the same time as the public.

District 116 has one of the more robust surveillance testing programs in the area. All elementary, middle and high schoolers who have opted in take at least one COVID test per week at school. Other drive-through options are also available.

Meanwhile, Champaign Unit 4 School District has not adopted the change yet.

“At this time, we are not shortening the required quarantine or isolation periods although we are aware of some pending new guidance regarding this from ISBE and IDPH. The proposed guidance will require significant changes to the processes and procedures in our buildings, so we are closely monitoring to see how things develop,” Unit 4 spokesperson Stacey Moore said by email.

Moore said Unit 4 staff and students should to continue follow the existing 10-day isolation and quarantine rules. Read the details of those rules in English, Spanish or French here.

The Illinois Department of Public Health announced late last week that it will send out new guidelines on the five-day isolation period. That happened late on Tuesday night, after Moore’s email. Unit 4 did not respond to a follow-up request in time for publication. 

The new state guidance allows local health districts to set ten-day quarantine periods for individuals. Otherwise, schools should allow students and staff with improving symptoms to return to school, according to IDPH. 

Emily Hays is a reporter for Illinois Public Media. Follow her on Twitter @amihatt.

Picture of Emily Hays

Emily Hays

Emily Hays started at WILL in October 2021 after three-plus years in local newsrooms in Virginia and Connecticut. She has won state awards for her housing coverage at Charlottesville Tomorrow and her education reporting at the New Haven Independent. Emily graduated from Yale University where she majored in History and South Asian Studies.

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