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Officials 'confident' to cosign updated COVID guidelines for Southern Indiana schools

Under the new guidance, Indiana schools will no longer be required to conduct contact tracing or report positive COVID cases to the health department.

JEFFERSONVILLE, Ind. — Following updated guidance from the Indiana Department of Health (IDOH), school districts in southern Indiana are changing their COVID-19 protocols for the rest of the school year.

On Feb. 17, the IDOH announced changes to its guidelines for K-12 schools in Indiana to reflect the declining COVID-19 cases across the state. The guidance officially goes into effect on Wednesday, Feb. 23.

Under the new guidance, schools will no longer be required to conduct contact tracing or report positive cases to the health department. In addition, students won't have to quarantine if they are exposed to a positive COVID case, regardless of vaccination status.

"Outside of the workday, it's been a long time since I've had to follow mandated what were COVID protocols," Dr. Chad Briggs, Superintendent of the Silver Creek School Corporation, said.

Dr. Eric Yazel, a health officer for Clark County, said that with new variants being less severe, he can confidently sign these new guidelines.

"I think us and all the schools, we have been in agreement that we want as many kids in in-person learning as possible," Yazel said.

He said he understands there may be students and staff at higher risks for serious infections that may feel nervous about these new rules.

But, Yazel said that vaccinations and new therapeutics are some of the best lines of defense when it comes to keeping yourself and others safe.

"If you walk through the hospitals, a vast majority of critically Ill hospital patients are the unvaccinated," he said.

Both Greater Clark County Schools (GCCS) and New Albany Floyd County Schools (NAFCS) will make masks optional for students starting next week. Parents can still choose to have their child wear a mask to school, but it will not be required.

However, masks must still be worn on the school bus due to federal transportation guidelines.

RELATED: Indiana votes to roll back worker vaccine rulings

Per the IDOH, staff members or students who test positive for COVID-19 will have to isolate for five days regardless of vaccination status. By the sixth day, they will be allowed to return if they don't have symptoms or if their symptoms are "resolving," as long as they wear a mask for another five days.

If they are unable to wear a mask at all times, they must stay at home for the full 10-day quarantine period.

GCCS and NAFCS both said school leaders will work with their local health departments as well as the IDOH to implement any further changes.

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