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Students at Alturas Elementary wear masks in compliance with BCSD policy earlier this year.

With students returning from winter break on Monday—and the highly contagious omicron variant of COVID-19 gripping much of the country—Blaine County School District has implemented several changes to the its COVID-19 exposure and quarantine policy, Superintendent Jim Foudy announced on Sunday.

The set of guidelines aligns with the newly revised recommendations issued last week by the Federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“CDC’s updated recommendations for isolation and quarantine balance what we know about the spread of the virus and the protection provided by vaccination and booster doses,” CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said in a statement on Dec. 27. “These updates ensure people can safely continue their daily lives.”

In light of that, the district now recommends that individuals who have received a positive test for COVID-19 isolate and stay home for five days. If upon the sixth day symptoms have improved, individuals may return from their isolation, but must wear a mask around others until the tenth day after a positive test.

Under the new policy, someone who was exposed to COVID-19 and is up to date on their vaccinations and boosters won’t be required to isolate for the five days. But, they should wear masks around others for 10 days following exposure. The district also recommends that any exposed person take a COVID-19 on the fifth day after exposure.

If someone has been exposed to COVID and is not vaccinated or up to date with their vaccinations, the district recommends that they isolate for five days, and take another five days to determine whether symptoms have emerged. If the symptoms have resolved in the five to 10 days after exposure, they can to return to normal daily routine with masks.

If someone experiences any symptom, such as coughing, fatigue, congestion, or a runny nose, the BCSD advises them to stay home until a they can be tested. Anyone with a fever is advised to stay home until the fever resolves. Any individual that cannot wear a mask due to health-related reasons should isolate for a full 10 days, the CDC recommends.

“If you experience symptoms, stay home and get tested,” Foudy said.

The CDC still recommends wearing masks indoors, even if an individual is fully vaccinated and without symptoms, and the BCSD has not changed its mask requirement.

The CDC changed its requirements in late December in response to new data on the omicron variant, which has overtaken delta as the most prevalent variant in the United States.

“The omicron variant is spreading quickly and has the potential to impact all facets of our society,” Walensky said. “Prevention is our best option: get vaccinated, get boosted, wear a mask in public indoor settings in areas of substantial and high community transmission, and take a test before you gather.” 

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