Ohio Updates Guidance on Quarantining Students, Releases Vaccination Figures

COLUMBUS, Ohio – Following the release of two studies – one in Ohio and another in Mississippi – looking at coronavirus transmission in classrooms, Gov. Mike DeWine announced Wednesday that the state is loosening its recommendation for quarantining students.

The new recommendation is that students only be quarantined after a classmate tests positive if social distancing and mask-wearing is not possible in the classroom.

Previously, Ohio followed guidelines set by the Centers for Disease Control that students quarantine if a classmate tests positive, regardless of safety measures.

DeWine and Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff, medical director of the Ohio Department of Health, referred to a pair of studies to validate the decision.

One was conducted in Ohio between No. 10 and Dec. 18 and examined 728 students in seven school districts across the state. Among those 524 students met the CDC’s definition of having “close contact” with a classmate who tested positive.

“There was no discernible difference in the incidence rate among the exposed students and the students who weren’t exposed,” Vanderhoff said. “The rate for both groups hovered around 3%. It’s important to note that this involved students in classrooms, not extracurricular, community or home settings.”

The study was conducted by Ohio’s School COVID-19 Evaluation Team, comprised of medical schools in the state, the Government Resource Center, Ohio State University, Wright State University, Ohio University and the Post Acute Rapid Response Team.

The study in Mississippi, highlighted in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report last week, mirrored the Ohio study’s findings.

“It shows that the close contacts of children with COVID-19 were more likely to be family members and less likely to be classmates,” Vanderhoff said. “Importantly, those attending school in person for the two weeks before being tested was not associated with an increased likelihood of a positive test.”

DeWine also said that as part of the next phase of the state’s vaccination program, adults working in schools will be able to get vaccinated if they choose. No date has been set for when that phase will begin.

“What we’re asking schools to do is come up with a precise number of people getting it, whether it’s a teacher or custodian or a cook in the cafeteria,” he said. “If they’re interacting with children, we want them to get vaccinated.”

He also announced the Ohio Department of Health will begin releasing information on the progress of vaccinations on its COVID-19 dashboard. He urged hospitals to report how many vaccines had been administered within 24 hours, though he acknowledged that logistics may not allow for such a turnaround.

“I had a good conversation with the hospital CEOs this morning. They’re vaccinating people on the front line, workers who are protecting and taking care of our loved ones,” DeWine said. “They’ve seen things none of us have ever seen unless we’ve worked directly with a COVID patient. There’s an imperative they get vaccinated as soon as possible.”

As of Wednesday afternoon, the state health department reported 94,078 vaccines administered, including 22,471 in the past 24 hours. 

In Mahoning County, 1,663 vaccines have been administered, as well as 1,133 in Trumbull County and 713 in Columbiana County. Local health districts and hospitals have reported receiving a combined 7,600 doses, meaning just under half – 46.1% – have been administered.

Each Tuesday, DeWine continued, Pfizer and Moderna briefs the state on how many doses will be arriving the following week. In the coming week, Pfizer will deliver 70,200 doses of the initial shot and 98,475 of the follow-up booster shots, while Moderna will deliver 69,500 vaccines.

“We can’t control how fast the vaccine comes into the state of Ohio. We know there’s a scarcity. We know we have two streams coming in: Pfizer and Moderna,” DeWine said. “We hope those streams get wide. We hope those get wider as the weeks go on and we hope there are more streams that come on.” 

Copyright 2022 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.