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Local health officials talk changes to quarantine guidelines, school districts adjust

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WATERLOO, Iowa (KWWL) -- Local health officials said they have high hopes after the state rolled out new COVID-19 quarantine guidelines for schools and businesses on Tuesday.

The state now says if you come in contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19, you no longer have to quarantine as long as both people wear masks.

"It changes who is going to need to be on quarantine for 14 days after exposure," Black Hawk County Health Department Disease Surveillance & Investigation Manager Joshua Pikaro said. "It's really getting down to differentiating who needs a quarantine who doesn't as a result of contact with that person who tested positive."

To be considered a close contact, you have to be within six feet of someone who has tested positive for the virus for more than 15 minutes.

During her press conference on Tuesday, Governor Reynolds said many school districts felt the current guidance forced more students to quarantine than necessary.

"If there is one who was positive, that person might have taken out six, seven individuals," Independence Community School District Superintendent Russell Reiter said.

On Friday, the district had 99 students and staff members quarantined.

As of Wednesday, that number is down to 26 because of the new guidance.

"We had quarantined several kids who were in close proximity, but we have also required masks in our classrooms and our schools from the beginning of the year," Reiter said.

On Monday, the district switched to hybrid learning for all middle and high school students to ensure it could maintain social distancing in all of its classrooms.

Reiter said he expects it will last around a month.

The new guidelines buck the current CDC guidance.

Pikaro said he had been expecting the changes for a while, but he expected it to come from the CDC.

Instead, it is top health experts in several states including Iowa leading the way.

Pikaro said he hopes the new guidelines will encourage more people to wear masks.

"It's kind of an incentive if people are wearing their masks and wearing them correctly, they may not need to quarantine if they have exposure," he said. "I think this got this change might really help."

Pikaro said the important thing about the changing guidelines is that a mask alone isn't enough.

"This doesn't take the place of social distancing staying home with your sick, staying home if you have been exposed," he said. "We don't want to just rely on one control measure that layered approach those multiple measures are really what's going to help limit the spread of COVID-19 as much as possible."

Pikaro offered some times on the proper ways to wear and handle a mask.

"They need to cover the nose and the mouth and godown below the chin and fit fairly snugly against the face, so there's not a bunch of open area," he said. "You really shouldn't touch the front of the mask or taking it on or off. You should take it off by the straps."

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Daniel Perreault

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