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Horry County Schools updates COVID-19 policies as variants surge

Almost 4K Horry County students currently quarantined
Published: Jan. 10, 2022 at 9:37 PM EST
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HORRY COUNTY, S.C. (WMBF) - Horry County Schools says it received updated guidelines from DHEC, outlining new criteria that could shorten the quarantine period for students and staff members.

District leaders say the new guidelines will help to keep more kids inside the classrooms, so in-person instruction can take place safely.

RELATED COVERAGE | The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control updated its COVID-19 school guidance Monday

RELATED COVERAGE | Horry County Schools updates quarantine guidelines to align with DHEC, CDC recommendations

HCS Superintendent Dr. Rick Maxey said currently, 145 staff members and 3,800 students are in quarantine.

The updated guidance says the quarantine period can be shortened from 10 to five days if certain conditions are met. And under specific stipulations, Horry County Schools can now accept at-home tests to help get kids back in the classroom faster.

“We will look at it on a case by case basis,” said Maxey.

First big change: Terminology

Now uses terms Maximally vaccinated and fully vaccinated:

  • Maximally vaccinated: Ages 18 and up who have completed their primary vaccine series of two doses of Pfizer or Moderna or a single dose of Janssen vaccine, including an additional dose for an individual who is immunocompromised, and has had a booster shot if eligible.
  • Fully vaccinated: Ages 17 and younger who have completed their primary vaccine series of two doses, including an additional dose for an individual who is immunocompromised, more than 14 days ago.

Second big change: Cohorts

Before use to be considered any group of students. Now a cohort is defined as five or more. Quarantine is based on the number/percentage in the cohort.

  • CLASSROOM OR COHORTS (5 STUDENTS OR MORE): If 20% or more of the students within a classroom or other cohort of students (e.g., sports teams or extracurricular groups) become symptomatic or test positive for COVID-19, the entire class or cohort must quarantine.

“Prior to yesterday if you had three positive cases in that cohort then you put the entire cohort out for the quarantine period. That has changed,” said Velna Allen, the Chief Officer of Student Services. “If you have 15 or more in your cohort, it may help us keep from quarantining as many students. Obviously, if there is a member of that cohort that can show they are fully vaccinated or maximally vaccinated they won’t have to.”

Third big change: DHEC supporting at-home tests

At-home rapid tests are now accepted under the following guidelines

  • Two viral at-home tests should be performed at least 24 hours apart within 7 days of exposure. One of these tests must be done between days 5 and 7 after exposure.
  • A mask must be worn through day 10.
  • An At-Home Rapid-Test Result Attestation Form MUST be completed and submitted by the individual (or parent/guardian) in order for the result to be allowed to qualify an individual for isolation or early release from quarantine.

Some District leaders say the new procedures will take some getting used to for some staff members.

“It’s putting another burden on our teachers and schools,” said Helen Smith, a HCS board member. “We do want those children back in school and having their face-to-face education. So let’s just hope all this works.”

Email COVID19info@horrycountyschools.net for questions regarding COVID-19 quarantines and contact tracing.

The spring semester begins January 18.

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