What counts as “exposure” or “close contact” with someone who has COVID-19 now?
The guideline for social distancing is still six feet. And the criteria for “close contact” is still being within six feet of someone for more than 15 minutes over any given 24-hour period.
What should I do, if my child’s school notifies me that they were exposed to COVID-19 by a classmate?
That depends. Often, school principals and district leaders are the ones who decide if students need to be quarantined. But I’ve heard anecdotal reports of entire classes being sent home to learn remotely for two weeks as a precaution.
At what point should I pull my kid out of class or extracurricular activities, if the school offers no guidance?
I think that depends on a number of factors, including your child’s age, their vaccination status, and any masking procedures in place.
As a general rule, children who test positive for COVID-19 are not identified by name. So, unless you’re close enough friends with an affected child’s parents that they tell you directly their son or daughter was the one who developed COVID-19 and exposed your child to it, it’s hard to know what your child’s level of risk really was.
If your child ate lunch right next to someone who was infected, the risk of transmission is obviously much higher than if they were both wearing masks and staying six feet apart, even in a classroom setting.
If you have any doubts, the safest bet is always to quarantine them at home and watch for symptoms. Give the virus 3-5 days to build up to detectable levels, then get your child tested. If they still show no symptoms after 7 days from exposure, then they no longer need to quarantine.
If they’re fully vaccinated, they don’t need to quarantine after being around someone who has COVID-19, unless they develop symptoms. However, you should still them get tested 3-5 days after the exposure, even if they’re asymptomatic. They should also wear a mask indoors when they’re around other people, for at least 14 days following the exposure or until their test result is negative.
But if they’re unvaccinated or too young to be vaccinated, they should remain under quarantine for the full two weeks after the exposure just to be safe, in case they don’t develop symptoms until later on.
Are the rules any different if a child lives with someone who’s immunocompromised?
Only in terms of keeping the child separate from the rest of the household. Designate a particular area as that child’s territory and have them stay in it for the entire quarantine period and use a separate bathroom, if possible.
Everyone in the household should also wear masks, even while indoors, until the full two-week quarantine period is over. That’s because the greatest danger is to the person who is immunocompromised. And masks have been proven to reduce the transmission of COVID-19.