Illinois Schools Reduce COVID-19 Isolation Time from 10 to 5 Days

Illinois schools are changing quarantine recommendations to align with new guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The new guidelines recommend K-12 students to isolate for five days after being exposed to COVID-19. Previously, the guidance was a 10-day isolation period.

The new recommendation has caused worry for some parents and educators in school districts as COVID-19 cases continue to rise from the omicron variant. According to district data from Chicago Public Schools, over 12,818 students are in quarantine, and 2,355 adults are also staying home due to a positive case.

“In-person learning is obviously good for kids,” Dr. Robert Murphy, professor of infectious diseases at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine, said. “However, if we look at the peak of the pandemic, it was too risky to bring kids to the classroom at this particular point. But this may change very soon. The [Omicron variant] is starting to level off in the city of Chicago.”

Dr. Todd Florin, a director of research in Emergency Medicine at Lurie Children’s Hospital, co-lead an international study that followed 10,300 children at 41 emergency hospitals in 10 countries, including Canada and the U.S. The study found that adolescents are most likely to be hospitalized from the virus and more.

“In this study we found that when kids presented themselves to the emergency department, 3% developed a severe outcome,” Florin said. “[Children] were in need of intensive interventions like mechanical ventilation and medications to support their blood pressure.”

Florin said research was done before the omicron variant hit and said that research cannot “extrapolate” to the current variant of concern.

Murphy still urged parents to vaccinate their children to avoid hospitalizations.

“If your kids are eligible to get the vaccination, get them vaccinated. If your child goes into isolation and then goes outside, make sure they are wearing a good mask. An important to note, most of these kids that are hospitalized are unvaccinated. The vaccination rate is very low among kids aged 5 and lower,” Murphy said. 

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