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West Michigan counties not currently requiring 'close contact' quarantine for students

For now, the decisions rest with each school district, said Teresa Branson, deputy health officer with the Kent County Health Department.

MICHIGAN, USA — Health departments in Kent, Ottawa, Muskegon and Ionia counties announced Friday that they were not issuing orders requiring "close contact" students to quarantine for the time being. 

After consulting with the state health department, local health officials said they were informed that student quarantine was no longer covered by state law. 

For now, the decisions rest with each school district, said Teresa Branson, deputy health officer with the Kent County Health Department.

"In the absence of an order, they have to look for that guidance from their schools," Branson said Friday. "And the schools are in contact with the Kent County Health Department for additional support and guidance, so parents and families and students do have to comply with what the school puts in place."

Branson said the county chose not to immediately put out an order based on a "number of reasons." 

"The situation with COVID now is quite different than it was a month ago," Branson said, citing the decreasing positivity rate decreasing and the vaccine being more widely available. 

"All these things are working in our favor," Branson said. 

Previously, students had to quarantine if they were within 6-feet for 15 minutes or more of someone who tested positive for COVID-19. Quarantined students will likely be able to return to class Monday, said Kent Intermediate School District Superintendent Ron Koehler. 

Koehler said quarantines had been "the most disruptive" of the COVID-19 precautions.

"That was the one that prompted many schools, who had been in person, to go remote for a period of time and then return," Koehler said. 

He said parents will still be made aware when their child is a close contact. 

"We absolutely would let a parent know that we believe that their student has been in close contact, and we would suggest to them that they may choose to hold their student out of school for a period of time," Koehler said. 

Other guidelines do remain in the place. Employees are still required to isolate and students are still required to wear a mask while in the classroom. Local health departments are recommending schools follow the state health department's guidance. 

The departments will monitor the situations in each district and work with administrators on any necessary actions, according to the joint release from the four counties. 

Michigan Department of Health and Human Services had not yet returned request for comment at the time this story was published.

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