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Quarantine and Isolation Requirements for COVID Cases

New: As of January 18, COVID quarantine/isolation lasts at least five days.* (Previously, the period was at least ten days.)  This change is based on the most up-to-date guidance from federal, state, and local health authorities.

*Exception: If you or your child cannot wear a mask routinely during the school day or keep physical distance because of a medical condition or other reason, the quarantine/isolation period will generally continue to be ten days. Email healthandsafety@bcps.k12.md.us for more information.

Who quarantines or isolates, starting when
  • Students or staff members who test positive for COVID must isolate, regardless of whether they are vaccinated or unvaccinated, what kind of test was used, or if the test was taken in or out of school
    • Anyone with a confirmed COVID infection should isolate from other people, including other members of their household, to limit spread of the virus.
    • Day 1 of isolation is the day after symptoms start. If there are no symptoms (“asymptomatic infection”), Day 1 is the day after receiving the positive test result.
    • Masking is required between days 6-10. 
  • Unvaccinated students or staff members living in the same household as someone who tests positive for COVID
    • Unless household members test positive, they can quarantine rather than isolate. This means that they can be in contact with one another, but should limit the contact they have with people outside their household.
    • Masking is required between days 6-10. 
  • Unvaccinated close contacts of a student or staff member who is positive for COVID 
    • A member of City Schools’ contact-tracing team or school-based staff will work with affected students or staff to determine the day of exposure and dates for quarantine.
    • Important exceptions: Unvaccinated close contacts who participate in the test-to-stay program and test negative can stay in school, but they must remain masked for 10 days. No quarantine is required.
    • Also, no quarantine is required for close contacts who themselves have recovered from a COVID infection within the last 90 days.
  • If you have recovered from COVID-19 in the last 90 days, you do not need to quarantine as a close contact.

Returning to school 

Quarantine and isolation last at least five days. 

Students or staff members who tested positive for COVID can return to school on Day 6 if they

  • Had an asymptomatic infection
  • Had symptoms but no fever (without taking fever-reducing medication), vomiting, or diarrhea on Day 5, and other symptoms are improving—that is, no new, persistent, or worsening cough; no or minimal sore throat; and no congestion or runny nose that would interfere with wearing a mask
  • Are able to mask between days 6-10

Otherwise, for students and staff who had symptoms, they must continue to isolate until symptoms are improving and there has been no fever, vomiting, or diarrhea for 24 hours.

Exception: Anyone who tests positive but is unable to wear a face mask consistently (e.g., because of a medical condition) must isolate for ten days, even if they have no symptoms or their symptoms improve before the ten days are up.

Unvaccinated household members of a COVID-positive person can return to school on Day 6 if they had no symptoms over the five-day quarantine period and the COVID-positive person was able to isolate from others in the household.  

  • Important: If unvaccinated household members cannot be isolated from the COVID-positive person, they must quarantine for ten days. If they develop symptoms, they should be tested as soon as possible after those symptoms appear. If they test positive for COVID, isolation resets with Day 1 being the day after the positive test result is received.

Unvaccinated close contacts can return to school on Day 6 if they had no symptoms over the five-day quarantine period.  Masking is required between days 6-10.

  • Important: Any unvaccinated close contacts who develop symptoms should be tested as soon as possible after those symptoms appear. If they test positive for COVID, isolation resets with Day 1 being the day after the positive test result is received.   

FAQs about COVID Quarantine and Isolation

Browse below to find more detail about changes to quarantine requirements for staff and students who have COVID and unvaccinated contacts who may be infected. Can’t find the answer to your specific question? Email healthandsafety@bcps.k12.md.us.

Is it safe for City Schools to reduce the number of days for isolation or quarantine?

Yes. The Maryland Department of Health recently shared new guidance on modified quarantine policies for schools. City Schools takes many steps that minimize the spread of infection and align with the state’s updated guidance. This includes widespread use of rapid antigen tests and PCR tests, along with masking, air filtration, vaccine requirements for staff, and vaccine availability for students age 5 and up.

Reducing the length of isolation and quarantine means students and staff can miss fewer days of school and focus on teaching and learning.

What’s the difference between isolation and quarantine?

Isolation separates a person with a contagious disease from people who are not sick. This means that anyone who tests positive for COVID should have no contact with other people for at least five days, including members of their own household. (Parents/guardians of children who are too young to be left alone and unsupervised for long periods should take reasonable steps to minimize contact—for example, by limiting interaction to one adult family member, wearing masks at home, and opening windows when feasible.) 

Quarantine separates people who were exposed to a contagious disease to see if they become sick. This means that close contacts of someone who tests positive must stay home, but they can have limited contact with other members of their household.

Who lets me know if my child needs to isolate or quarantine and for how long?

If your elementary or elementary/middle school child is a part of a positive pool or if your child tests positive on an individual rapid test, your school will notify you of the test result. If your middle, middle/high, or high school student tests positive, your school will notify you or you can check for your student’s test results online by following these directions. City Schools' contact-tracing team will also contact you about any household close contacts who need to quarantine and let you know when your child can return to school. 

If your child is identified as a close contact of someone in school was has COVID, the contact-tracing team or a staff member at your child’s school will contact you. If you have agreed to in-school testing on the consent form, your child can take a rapid antigen test at school. If the test is positive, your school will contact you with the results and information about the isolation requirements. (If the test is negative, your child can remain in school.)

If a student or staff member tests positive and has symptoms, do they have to isolate for longer than five days?

Not necessarily. A person who tests positive for COVID can return to school on Day 6 if they have no symptoms or if symptoms are improving. According to the Baltimore City Department of Health, this means that the person

  • Is fever free for 24 hours without use of fever-reducing medications 
  • Has no new acute cough, persistent cough, or worsening cough (chronic cough from baseline conditions should be distinguished from any new acute cough and is not a reason to be excluded from returning to school)
  • Has minimal or completely resolved sore throat 
  • Had no vomiting or diarrhea in the preceding 24 hours
  • Has no or minimal congestion, runny nose, or other symptoms that interfere with mask-wearing

If the COVID-positive person has any of these symptoms and they are not getting better on Day 5 of isolation, they should remain home until 24 hours after they begin to improve.

(Note that if symptoms included loss of taste or smell, this may be ongoing but is not a reason to be excluded from returning to school.)

What if a student or staff member is a close contact of someone outside of school who has COVID?

The Baltimore City Health Department manages contact tracing and other aspects of COVID cases outside of school. If you or your child has close contact outside of school with someone who tests positive for COVID, then the Health Department’s quarantine requirements must be followed. If you are contacted by the Health Department and asked to quarantine, please make sure to notify your school.

Are students marked absent when they are home in isolation or quarantine?

If students have symptoms and test positive for COVID, they are marked with an excused absence during the isolation period and any additional days they need to recover. If they do not have symptoms or feel better before the minimum five days of isolation have passed, then they can participate in remote learning and be marked present for those days.

Attendance for unvaccinated students who are close contacts of someone with COVID depends on the circumstances:

  • If the close contact was in school and the unvaccinated student does not participate in in-school testing, then the student must quarantine at home for five days and this is marked as an unexcused absence.
    • City Schools’ test-to-stay program helps students stay in school safely. All students are encouraged to participate. With test to stay, close contacts get a rapid test at school. If the results are negative, they do not have to quarantine and can stay in school.
    • Instead of in-school test to stay, a close contact can return to school by providing proof of a negative COVID test. This test must be done by a medical provider and you must pay any associated costs; at-home testing with a rapid test kit does not meet the requirements. 
  • If the close contact was outside of school, the unvaccinated student must quarantine as outlined in guidance from the Baltimore City Health Department. The student can do schoolwork from home and be marked present; otherwise, the student will be marked with an unexcused absence for the five-day quarantine period.

Participating in City Schools’ in-school testing program means that unvaccinated students can avoid missing school or being marked with unexcused absences. Parents/guardians can consent to testing by completing and returning the form below.

Download the consent form to your school: English | Spanish

My child has a medical condition and our doctor says quarantine has to be longer. Will my child be marked absent if they miss more than five days of school?

Please send a note from your doctor to your school. If your child is not feeling well enough to do remote schoolwork, they will be marked with an excused absence. If your child is well enough for remote learning during the extended quarantine, they will be marked present.

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