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Pierce County schools adjust COVID guidelines, lower isolation times

Educators and parents are split on the changes and whether they're safe for students.

PIERCE COUNTY, Wash. — New information from the CDC is changing the way schools in Pierce County deal with COVID-19.

School districts will now allow students to come back to school if five days have passed since testing positive with no symptoms, no symptoms are present, or symptoms are resolving, and they have no fever within the past 24 hours without medication.

The CDC now reports that the science shows the majority of SARS-CoV-2 transmission occurs early in the course of illness, generally a day or two prior to the onset of symptoms and two to three days after.

But the changes come as COVID cases are increasing significantly across Pierce County.

The county saw 13 outbreaks in schools this week, according to data from the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department. 

Given the recent spike in cases, not everyone is convinced that this is the right move.

Shannon Ergun, president of the Tacoma Education Association, says teachers are split on the changes.

“Some of our educators are feeling like the new information is in line with the medical recommendations and they’re feeling very confident with it. Some are feeling like they’re moving too fast and we may be too focused on keeping schools open and not enough on health and safety,” Ergun said.

Parents are also split on the changes depending on what their students' needs are.

“It’s a lot better for younger children and children with learning disabilities because luckily my son does work from home but I’m not in the house to help my son stay focused on school,” said Jessica Boggs.

“As far as schools go, I don’t understand why they would shorten the quarantine time, especially with more kids getting it,” Donavan Klug said.

But even with the changes, Ergun says there are still basic questions the county must answer.

“How do we ensure that the kids in the room are getting a quality education?” Ergun asked. “How do we ensure that kids who need to be quarantined and are unable to attend are also getting a robust education? How do we keep the kids that aren’t sick, healthy? All of these things are major concerns.”