O’Scanlon: Implement “Test and Stay” Protocols to Avoid Excessive Quarantines in Schools
Senator Declan O’Scanlon (R-Monmouth) called for Governor Murphy to join numerous states in utilizing new COVID-19 modified quarantine procedures which would allow exposed asymptomatic students to remain in the classroom and receive daily rapid tests in lieu of the at-home 14-day quarantine.
“This is absolutely the direction that we need to be going in. We must balance the negative impact of massive quarantines on our children’s education, family disruption, and keeping people out of work,” said O’Scanlon. “It’s time for all of us to rally and time for the administration to be more dynamic. They must be ahead of the curve, not behind it, for a policy that has been shown to be demonstrably effective and safe.”
Sixty-three percent of New Jersey residents are fully vaccinated leading to New Jersey being among the top 6 states across the country with the highest percentage of fully vaccinated members of the population.
“One of our local school districts had over 640 people quarantined last year. That’s over 6,000 lost days of education, productivity, and one or two parents out of work. This is in only 1 district. If there is a way to avoid these excessive and unnecessary quarantine issues, we must seize it RIGHT NOW. Surrounding states are allowing for potentially exposed students to stay in school as long as they receive daily rapid tests, stay asymptomatic, and continue wearing masks. This is not only a commonsense approach, but early evidence shows that it is both safe and effective,” O’Scanlon continued. “We need to explore and implement these new testing/dramatic quarantine reduction procedures here in New Jersey ASAP before we continue down the path of ruining yet another school year for too many students, too many districts, and too many families.”
A study of the modified quarantine approach by Oxford infectious disease experts found only 2% of exposed students who were quarantined wound up testing positive. Several states across the country have also begun to implement new “Test and Stay” or modified quarantine procedures, including Massachusetts, which the study showed to be equally as effective as quarantining.
“While I understand the serious nature of the health and safety concerns regarding this virus, we also cannot underestimate the critical importance that in-person schooling represents for our children,” added Fair Haven Superintendent Sean McNeil. “Our local data alone makes it clear that we are significantly over-quarantining our children at the sake of their social, emotional, and academic well-being and development. I would fully champion any method of a Test and Stay approach that our respected health entities could support while also emphasizing the importance of maximizing in-person learning opportunities safely. Our district alone last year quarantined 646 students out of a total of about 980 students in our district. That is 2/3 of our student population who were disrupted by quarantines. We are only aware of 2-3 students who MAY have contracted COVID due to one of these close contact situations. That is a .005% rate of transmission rate among student close contacts. The truly heartbreaking piece is that, despite that low transmission rate, the 646 student quarantines equated to almost 6000 days of in-person school missed for those close contact students; in hindsight, unnecessarily.”
“New Jersey is a highly vaccinated state, the overwhelming majority of our vulnerable populations have already been vaccinated. Further, vaccines have proven to be dramatically effective against serious illness and death. If we are not ready to get on with our lives now, with our high rate of vaccination and naturally acquired immunity combined with what we know are effective and reasonable safety protocols; then we will never be ready,” O’Scanlon concluded.