NYC unvaccinated students and school staff must quarantine for seven days if exposed to COVID-19

First Day of School
Michael Appleton/Mayoral Photography Office

Public school students required to quarantine this fall will do so for a shorter period of time compared to last school year, officials said Thursday. 

Last year, students and teachers that were in a classroom with at least one COVID-19 infection were required to stay home for 10 to 14 days. The Department of Education changed the policy during the spring to only apply to the unvaccinated ahead of launching its summer session, Summer Rising. 

With less than a month until school starts, details on quarantining remain scant — but on Aug. 19, Mayor Bill de Blasio told reporters anyone exposed to a COVID-19 case in a classroom that is unvaccinated, and vaccinated students and adults showing symptoms of the virus, will be forced to quarantine at home for seven days. 

“It’s now seven days, not a long time in the context of the whole school year. And we want everyone to be safe. We want everyone to have the information they need, but that quarantine period is very brief,” de Blasio said. “We will be talking in the coming days about exactly how there’ll be education for those kids during that time.

The policy is in keeping with current health and safety guidelines from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention which recommends that all unvaccinated adults and children quarantine for 14 days if exposed to the virus but which allows for shorter stints in quarantine for 10 or 7 days if adequate testing is available. 

But the CDC’s guidance is confusing and if the City chooses to just tell school administrators to follow the agency’s recommendation for quarantining, some might find it difficult to adhere to. 

“I think it’s a little confusing and leaves a lot up to individual schools,” one public health expert told amNewYork Metro. ” They really try with what they’ve got to make recommendations in the absence of full information.” 

Parents, educators and some elected officials have been pressing the City for details on the fall’s full school reopening for months. Many are particularly concerned about COVID-19 testing protocol will look like and how quarantined students will continue to take their classes given Mayor de Blasio’s adamant refusal to offer a centralized remote option for students. 

Although the bulk of parents, students, and school staff support a full return to classrooms, some parents worried about the coronavirus’ more aggressive delta variant have been urging the City to offer a remote option.

At the moment, the DOE is only offering a remote option for immunocompromised children and Schools Chancellor Meisha Ross Porter recently said during a virtual event the City might increase testing at schools located in neighborhoods with low vaccination rates. But a formal plan has yet to be released. 

De Blasio tried to assure New Yorkers during a press conference Thursday that school communities “would see a lot fewer people” quarantining this school year given vaccination rates. So far, about 300,000 children between the ages of 12 and 17, or about 56% of vaccine-eligible children and 60% of public school teachers have gotten at least one shot of the vaccine, according to officials. 

“We want everyone to be safe … that quarantine period is very brief,” de Blasio said. “We will be talking in the coming days about exactly how there’ll be education to those kids during that time.”