Ohio Gov. Says He Won't Make Students Quarantine After COVID Exposure

by Cassandra Stone
Scott Olson/Getty and Ohio.Gov

Even though cases in Ohio are spiking, Gov. DeWine is dismissing CDC quarantining protocol for schools

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine has decided to completely dismiss CDC guidelines when it comes to schools, COVID exposure, and quarantining. DeWine announced that Ohio is changing its guidance and that, moving forward, students and teachers exposed to a COVID-positive person in school are no longer required to quarantine.

DeWine is basing his decision on an independent evaluation (aka a non-peer-reviewed study, meaning that a group of experts has not weighed in to determine the results of said study are valid) that determined that as long as students wear a mask and the COVID exposure occurred in school, there is “no need” to have the exposed students quarantine.

Ohio cases continue to rise, with the total number of active cases in the state nearing 800,000 as of Wednesday. One would think, what with community spread being so wide, vast, and uncontrollable, that Gov. DeWine wouldn’t stray from quarantining protocol — particularly within schools, as he’s pushing for in-person learning to occur with or without the vaccine.

The World Health Organization says that COVID cases in children in school settings are often mild, asymptomatic, and are often underreported. This would make it almost impossible to determine schools as a COVID “safe zone,” as there isn’t enough reported data to base such a decision. Particularly as many states across the country are seeing rampant community spread.

“Ultimately, this will be one more step to keep kids inside the classroom which is where we know we want them to be,” DeWine said in a statement about his quarantine decision.

Preliminary results of DeWine’s evaluation found “no discernable difference in the risk of contracting the coronavirus between those in close contact with a COVID-positive person in the classroom and those who were farther away.” Which led the governor to determine that Ohio’s classrooms are keeping kids “safe,” even though the school has no control over what activities students engage in when outside of the classroom.

Oklahoma’s governor Kevin Stitt has issued similar changes to state protocol regarding students and quarantining. He recently announced that teachers or students who are exposed to someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 will not have to quarantine as long as that exposure happened in a classroom setting and all protocols were being followed.

Oklahoma is averaging 4,250 new cases of COVID daily.

Last week, DeWine came under fire for his new decision regarding Ohio teachers and the COVID vaccine: Ohio teachers are eligible to receive the vaccine as of Feb. 1, according to a new statement by Gov. Mike DeWine. But only if they agree, in writing, to teach in-person beginning March 1.

This means that not only is the vaccine prioritization conditional for Ohio teachers, but Gov. DeWine isn’t even allowing enough time in between vaccine doses for it to take full effect. Many Ohioans, parents and educators included, called the governor out for using his political power to withhold the vaccine from a vulnerable population. They accused DeWine of being manipulative and unethical with the vaccine distribution and pointed out that the vaccine needs time to reach full efficacy, and noted that there isn’t even a vaccine available for children yet.

Mason City School superintendent Jonathan Cooper, a Warren County, Ohio, school district, says he’s on board with DeWine’s new quarantining plan.

“I can’t express how big of a deal this is for schools because that was a huge barrier to us moving forward in a lot of ways,” Cooper told WLWT News. He says his district has had to quarantine thousands of kids, many of them more than once.

It’s worth noting that Warren County is sixth out of 88 counties when it comes to COVID spread.