Isolation and quarantine: Two important ways to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in schools

Oregon Health Authority and the Oregon Department of Education have recommended layered health and safety measures for the protection of all children and staff in Oregon schools. How much protection do these measures provide?

Every layer matters. Once a COVID-19 case is identified at school, isolation and quarantine are the best way to prevent the spread of COVID-19 to others.

Isolation and quarantine: What’s the difference?

Both isolation and quarantine reduce the risk of accidentally spreading the virus to other people.

  • Isolation means keeping someone infected with COVID-19 away from other peopleas much as possible. For example, if your student tests positive for COVID-19 at school, they would be isolated from other students until they could safely go home for quarantine.
  • Once at home, they would need to keep away from other household members so they don’t also get sick from COVID-19. This means staying at home for 10 days after symptoms appear, AND remaining home until they have been fever-free for 24 hours without using fever-reducing medications, and other symptoms have improved.

Quarantine means keeping someone who may have been exposed to COVID-19 at home.

  • For example, if your student had close contact with someone who has COVID-19, the school and local public health authority may recommend quarantine.
  • The student will need to stay home for 14 days, monitoring health and watching for symptoms of COVID-19. In some cases, the local public health authority may recommend a shorter quarantine period.
  • If they develop symptoms of COVID-19 during quarantine, they should isolate within the home for 10 days, starting from the day they first showed symptoms.

How will I know if someone in my household needs to isolate or quarantine?

The school will notify you if your student comes in close contact with someone who has COVID-19, or if your student has tested positive. But your student should always stay home from school if they:

  • Have symptoms of COVID-19
  • Have a temperature of 100.4°F (38°C) or higher
  • Feel sick, even if they do not have COVID-19 or symptoms of COVID-19
  • Test positive for COVID-19, even if they show no symptoms
  • Have been in close contact with someone who has COVID-19 and the school and local public health department recommends quarantine
  • Live with someone who tests positive for COVID-19

Other household members do not need to stay at home if they haven’t been in close contact with someone who has COVID-19, and they are not showing symptoms.

Where can I get help to make sure we can isolate or quarantine correctly?

It’s best to have just one person in the household care for the person in isolation or quarantine, if possible. The caregiver should keep their distance from other people in the house as much as possible and use a face covering, stay six feet apart as much as possible, and wash their hands often.

It’s also good to be prepared in case anyone in your household has to be in isolation or quarantine. Ask these questions to help you prepare:

  • Are you and your household members vaccinated, if they can be?
  • Does the school have a way to reach you or an emergency contact in case your student needs to go home?
  • Do you know your child’s school’s plan to provide education in case of quarantine? If not, contact your child’s teacher.
  • Do you have access to a vaccinated caregiver if you can’t stay home with your student?
  • Do you have a private space in the home where someone ill can separate from others?

You can find more questions to ask and ways to prepare in OHA and ODE’s Guide to Supporting Children and Families during Quarantine and Isolation.

Some people may find it easy to quarantine. However, it may be harder for others. If you need help:

The best protection: COVID-19 vaccines

All three COVID-19 vaccines are extremely effective in preventing severe COVID-19 infection leading to hospitalization. The Pfizer vaccine is available in two forms for children:

  • Pediatric form for children ages 5 years to 11 years
  • Adult form for children ages 12 years to 17 years

If you care for children age 5 or older, visit OHA’s Find a COVID-19 Vaccine in Oregon web page to schedule their vaccine appointment today.