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Maricopa County launches quarantine alternative for unvaccinated students

Published: Monday, November 22, 2021 - 5:10pm
Updated: Tuesday, November 23, 2021 - 1:09pm
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The Maricopa County Department of Public Health recommends unvaccinated students exposed to someone with COVID quarantine for at least seven days. The practice can cause learning disruptions for students, so the department is testing a new alternative.

Under the department’s new Test to Stay pilot program, which launched on Monday, unvaccinated students could remain in school as long as the students wore masks at the time of exposure and the exposed student has no symptoms. The exposed student would also need to get tested three times and test negative each time.

“So the goal is to reduce absenteeism so that kids can continue to learn in school and have the best education possible," said Dr. Rebecca Sunenshine, the department’s Director for Disease Control.

The Maricopa health department is partnering with the Madison Elementary School District for this pilot program. Two of the district's schools, Madison Heights and Madison #1 Middle School, will start offering this alternative. Two other schools, Madison Camelview Elementary and Madison Park Middle School, will as a comparison group and follow guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, at-home quarantine procedures with additional at-home testing.

This type of program is already in place in 26 other jurisdictions, and the one Maricopa County is testing is modelled after one in Los Angeles County.

"What we've learned from other jurisdictions is that when you have a mask requirement in place and both the case who is infected and the individual exposed or wearing masks then there is a very low risk of transmitting COVID to the other individual," Sunenshine said.

If the county finds that this practice is safe and effective, Sunenshine said it will be expanded to other Maricopa County schools.

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