Jan 20, 2022 - COVID

Philly issues new quarantine guidance for city schools

Illustration of a school bus wearing a mask.
Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

Philadelphia health officials put in place new COVID-19 guidance for city schools on Wednesday, calling the CDC's recent move to shorten quarantine time "unduly risky" for students and staff.

Driving the news: Philadelphia district schools will no longer use positive case numbers to determine whether to pause in-person learning, the city's Health Commissioner Cheryl Bettigole announced.

What's happening: Schools now have two options based on their ability to implement virus mitigation strategies, such as strict mask-wearing and providing a separate eating area for those returning from quarantine.

How it works: With approval from city health officials, schools that can implement the list of required mitigation methods can allow students to return to in-person learning after five days of quarantining.

  • Schools that cannot must maintain a 10-day quarantine period for students.

Of note: The city will only allow staff the option to "test to return" after five days of quarantining, provided they test negative for the virus on days five and six.

  • Staff who cannot provide two negative tests must quarantine for 10 days.

Between the lines: The new guidance follows the CDC updating its own recommendations this month to allow students and staff to return to in-person learning after a five-day quarantine.

What they're saying: "Our latest guidance attempts to deal with the facts on the ground while we commit to advocating for a more equitable future," Bettigole said.

  • She blamed an "unfair and unjust" state funding formula that shortchanged city schools, preventing them from implementing virus mitigation strategies.

The other side: Jerry Jordan, president of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, released a statement slamming the new policies as "misaligned with the reality of the in-school experiences."

  • Schools are plagued by staff shortages and inadequate personal protective equipment and COVID testing supplies, Jordan said.
  • He called on school district officials and Mayor Jim Kenney to put in place a "jointly developed safety plan."
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