INDIANAPOLIS — When a student is potentially exposed to someone who is positive for COVID-19, the best practice is to put their entire household on quarantine.
That’s admittedly burdensome to not just the student, but also their siblings and parents. But it’s the most efficient way to cut off possible additional chaining of the virus, Indiana State Health Commissioner Dr. Kris Box said Wednesday.
Earlier this week, Lakeland School Corp. announced that it started the week with fewer than 50% of its students at Lakeland Jr./Sr. High in class due to positive cases and associated exposures.
Lakeland has been adhering to a strict quarantine requirement, with students exposed and their siblings being ordered to stay home for two weeks before being able to return to class. Those exposures have led to class sizes being decimated as overlapping outages have piled up just weeks into the school year.
Students or staff who test positive are already ordered to stay home, but other students and staff who are identified as having been as close contacts with those people are also generally told to stay home for two weeks too.
But does that mean everyone in the house needs to stay home, too, if only one person is exposed?
The answer, ideally, is yes, although that can be challenging to achieve in practice, Box acknowledged.
State studies have already shown that household members of someone sick are upwards of 12 times more likely to contract the virus themselves as compared to exposures elsewhere in the community. That’s because within your home, you’re in close living quarters and likely having close contact between parents and children. That makes it much easier for the virus to jump person to person if one person is infected.
“Individuals that are at highest risk to become infected is when they’re living with someone who is positive,” Box said.
With exposures, where it’s hard to tell whether that person is going to contagious or not even if an early tests shows them negative, best practices are to play safe rather than be sorry and limit that exposure as much as possible.
“We know that (exposed) individual needs to go home and quarantine, because that individual can certainly become symptomatic … that it is important to keep other family members at home and I know that adds up,” Box said.
If quarantines aren’t followed and a student or their siblings return to school or their parents go to work, if they had picked up the virus, they can potentially be spreading it to multiple more people.
Those numbers definitely add up quickly. One sick student may expose multiple classmates, who may have multiple siblings and who have parents. One positive case in a school could lead to numerous exposures at school and then, in turn, lead to additional possible exposures at home.
Local residents have seen the wide branching effect a case can have in the incident of a DeKalb High School football player, who after testing positive led to a quarantine not only for his entire team but also for the entire Angola High School team that played DeKalb on the field that prior Friday.
“Students, when they are waiting for results of a test, when they are symptomatic, when they are a close contact, they should stay home and don’t risk exposing others,” Box said.