INDIANAPOLIS — The surge in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations comes right as students get ready to head back to school next week.
State health leaders talked with school administrators Thursday about the latest numbers and the new CDC quarantine guidelines to clear up confusion and answer questions. Basically, they said that staying in class comes down to masking up and getting vaccinated.
Deputy State Health Commissioner and State Epidemiologist Pam Pontones walked schools through the new CDC guidelines for students and educators, starting Monday, Jan. 3.
"All I can tell you is buckle your seatbelts: It's going to be quite a ride," Pontones said.
For schools with a mask requirement, if a student tests positive for COVID-19 in class, the student should stay home for five days, returning on day six with a mask. If a student is exposed in class, there is no need to isolate. If exposed outside of class and fully vaccinated, again, no isolation is needed. If unvaccinated, the exposed student should stay home for five days.
For schools without a mask requirement, if a student tests positive, the student should isolate. A student who is exposed outside of school and fully vaccinated does not need to isolate.
If unvaccinated, the exposed student should stay home for five days.
The Indiana Department of Health expects to receive more specific direction from the CDC.
"Those guidance documents are underway, literally as we speak," Pontones said. "Believe me, states have been clamoring for them."
Anyone older than 2 who is able should wear a mask. They're mandated on the bus and should also be worn during extra-curricular activities.
IPS released a statement saying it is monitoring the latest guidance. They will communicate any updates to protocols with families soon.
Pontones stressed this is early information. "Please understand, more to come. Some of this may change in the next week or two," she said. "We are going to ride through this together. We will continue to do so until the very end."