Oakland Unified allowing COVID-positive students to attend class under new CA guidance

The district's guidance is based on a recent update to state guidance given by the California Department of Public Health.

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Wednesday, January 17, 2024
COVID isolation guidelines changing for Oakland Unified
Oakland Unified is now allowing COVID-positive students to attend class under a new guidance given by the California Department of Public Health.

OAKLAND, Calif. (KGO) -- A positive COVID test may not mean a necessity to isolate anymore.

New California state guidance says it's OK to return to work or school if you test positive for COVID but show no symptoms.

It's led to new guidance in at least one local school district.

Before this new guidance, people were told to isolate for five days whether you had symptoms or not.

As students in the Oakland Unified School District return to class this week, they're coming back with new COVID guidance.

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The district sent the guidance out Monday.

In its notice, OUSD said:

"The updated guidance moves towards a more symptom-based approach to COVID-19, similar to guidance for other illnesses. Most important to note, the new guidance removes the recommendation for a 5-day isolation period following a COVID-19 positive test."

The notice goes on to list updated protocols on what to do after testing positive:

Changes to isolation protocols after testing positive

OUSD will no longer issue COVID-19 isolation notifications that provide the first possible date staff or students can return to school after testing positive for COVID-19. Instead, please use these updated CDPH isolation protocols.

  • After testing positive for COVID-19 AND experiencing COVID-19 symptoms: Stay home if you have COVID-19 symptoms until you have not had a fever for 24 hours without using fever reducing medication AND other COVID-19 Symptoms are mild and improving.
  • Mask when you are around other people indoors for the 10 days after you become sick or test positive.
  • CDPH recommends that, if you have symptoms, and particularly if you are at higher risk for severe COVID-19, you speak with a healthcare provider as soon as you test positive. You may be eligible for specific treatments for COVID-19. Call CDPH at 1-833-422-4255 if you are unable to contact a healthcare provider, or use the treatment options to find one.
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    After testing positive for COVID-19 AND not experiencing COVID-19 symptoms:

    Staff or students who test positive for COVID-19 but do not have symptoms can continue to come to work/school, following these CDPH recommendations:

  • Avoid contact with people at higher-risk for severe COVID-19 for 10 days. Higher-risk individuals include the elderly, those who live in communal care facilities, and those who have immunocompromising conditions that put them at higher risk for serious illness.
  • Mask when you are around other people indoors for the 10 days after you test positive.
  • Students may remove their mask sooner than 10 days if they have two sequential negative tests at least one day apart.
  • Day 0 is symptom onset date or positive test date, if no symptoms.
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    The district's guidance is based on a recent update to state guidance given by the California Department of Public Health.

    "What the guidance is saying is that if you have tested positive for COVID, but you're not showing any symptoms, you can come to school with a certain type of contingencies in place," said Dr. Abraar Karan, infectious disease physician and researcher with Stanford University.

    Those contingencies aim to protect those who are most vulnerable.

    Still, doctors say it can't be guaranteed that people will follow them.

    "One (contingency) is to avoid being around people who are immunocompromised, or at higher risk. And then two is that you're wearing a mask," Dr. Karan said. And I think that these are both great in theory, but it can be very difficult for both of these contingencies.

    Experts are hopeful though that with the tools now available today, those with vulnerabilities are in a safer place.

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    "I'm not saying that there aren't people who are vulnerable," said Dr. Peter Chin-Hong, an infectious disease specialist at UCSF, "My main point is that people who are vulnerable have a lot of tools that I'm very confident will keep them away from the hospital if used in the right way."

    It's those tools that Dr. Peter Chin-Hong said helps encourages a district like OUSD to adopt the state guidance into their policy.

    "It indicates that we can't disrupt schooling and work and our daily lives, particularly given so many tools that we have," Dr. Chin-Hong said, "We actually, in this country have many more tools than most countries have access to."

    Still, experts urge that testing and masking when symptomatic have to remain priorities.

    "Rapid testing, the sort of home antigen tests are really meant to be used multiple times if your first one is negative," Dr. Karan said, "I think that's a key point for people to remember at home."

    ABC7 News reached out to other Bay Area school districts. The San Francisco Unified School District said that it continues to follow CDPH guidance and pushes anyone who has been diagnosed with COVID-19 to isolate using CDPH guidance.

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