Louisiana school superintendents call for loosening COVID-19 quarantine rules

By David Jacobs | The Center Square

Several parents and public school superintendents on Monday argued the state’s quarantine guidelines are too restrictive, harming students’ education and social well-being.

The current guideline, which is based on U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendations, calls for someone who has been in close proximity to someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 to quarantine at home for 14 days. Mike Faulk, executive director of the Louisiana Association of School Superintendents, suggested limiting the length of a quarantine to seven days.

“Students are not getting sick from exposure during classes where students are wearing masks,” Faulk told the state House of Representatives’ Health and Welfare Committee.

Ascension Parish Superintendent David Alexander suggested Louisiana should follow the same model as Missouri, where Gov. Mike Parson recently changed the rules so that people who wear masks may not have to quarantine. Rapides Parish schools leader Jeff Powell said only 1.14 percent of his system’s students have tested positive, while on average 18 students have to quarantine for each test.

Several speakers said they have seen increasing signs of depression among young people who are missing school and extracurricular activities.

Rep. Kenny Cox and Rep. Dustin Miller, both Democrats, said they didn’t think the science supports a quarantine of only seven days. And Miller noted that since not everyone gets tested and many people who are infected don’t experience symptoms, officials don’t actually know how many people in their schools are carrying the coronavirus that causes COVID-19.

Rep. Joseph Stagni, a Kenner Republican, said he was concerned about students getting infected at school and bringing it home to their parents and grandparents.

The discussion comes as Louisiana is facing its third surge of COVID-19. In a letter Gov. John Bel Edwards circulated Monday, Louisiana Hospital Association President Paul Salles urged residents to do what they can to reduce the spread of the virus this Thanksgiving.

“Unfortunately, we once again find our country in the midst of a spike in COVID-related hospitalizations, and recent reports show Louisiana’s COVID-19 cases are increasing,” he writes. “It is imperative that we continue to wear masks, practice social distancing, and protect our high-risk and elderly loved ones to reduce the number of individuals requiring hospital care so that our healthcare workforce is not stretched too thin.”

Louisiana on Monday reported 971 new cases of COVID-19 and 24 new deaths. There were 1,012 COVID-19 patients in hospitals, officials said.