CEDARVILLE — Ohio is changing its quarantine guidelines in regards to students who may have been exposed to COVID-19 in a classroom setting.
Gov. Mike DeWine announced on Wednesday the results of a study conducted by the Ohio Schools COVID-19 Evaluation Team. The team found if students in class are masked and socially distanced, they did not have an increased risk of catching the virus from a nearby positive student.
Because of this data, the state is no longer recommending that students quarantine when they have been exposed to another COVID-positive student, as long as all students have been wearing masks and the exposure took place in a classroom setting.
Schools should continue to quarantine exposed students if masking and distancing protocols were not followed. This change doesn’t apply to after-school activities, including sports.
"This will be one more step to keep kids in the classroom, which we know is where we want them to be," DeWine said.
According to Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff, Chief Medical Officer at the Ohio Department of Health, the study included 728 students in seven school districts between Nov. 10 and Dec. 18. Researchers found students were more likely to be exposed to COVID-19 at home or in their communities, not in school.
"Research points to the safety of the classroom environment," Vanderhoff said. "Our classrooms are ace examples of the benefits of consistent masking and other safety precautions for COVID-19."
One of the district involved in the study was Ashland City School District, prompting mixed reactions from the community. The administration allowed students who were in direct contact with a positive COVID-19 case to opt into the study, and possibly skip the 14-day quarantining period advised by the Center for Disease Control.
The governor's goal is to fully open schools by March 1, 2021.
In addition to robust safety measures in schools, adults working in schools will have the option to receive the COVID-19 vaccination as part of the next phase of the vaccine rollout. DeWine said there is not a specific date yet for when the next phase will begin.
According to the Ohio Department of Health, approximately 94,078 Ohioans have received the vaccine. This includes 601 people in Richland County, 346 in Ashland County and 395 in Knox County.
DeWine asked Wednesday for a "sense of urgency" in taking and administering the vaccine.
"It is your decision whether or not to receive it. If you do choose to get the vaccine, please have a sense of urgency," he said. "If you delay, it may take time for the vaccine to become available to you again due to its scarcity."
As of Tuesday, DeWine reported 69,500 additional doses of the Moderna vaccine would be arriving in Ohio next week, in addition to 70,200 of the first dose of the Pfizer vaccine and 98,475 of the second dose of the Pfizer vaccine.
"We can't control how fast the vaccine comes to Ohio, but we can control how fast we get it out," DeWine said. "There is a moral imperative to get the vaccine out just as soon as we can."
DeWine also announced the 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew would be extended for another three weeks, until Jan. 23, 2021. This is in anticipation of a rise in cases after the holidays.
Curfew does not apply to those going to and from work, or who have an emergency or need medical care. The curfew is not intended to stop anyone from getting groceries or going to the pharmacy.
Picking up carry-out or a drive-thru meal and ordering for delivery is permitted. Serving food and drink within an establishment must end by 10 p.m.