Maricopa County pilot program allows unvaccinated kids to stay in school after COVID-19 exposure

Dec 7, 2021, 4:45 AM | Updated: 7:20 am
(AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)...
(AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)
(AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)

PHOENIX — Maricopa County is piloting a program that allows unvaccinated students to remain in school after COVID-19 exposure with hopes to expand the policy countywide early next year.

The “masked test-to-stay” program at Madison Elementary School District says that students who haven’t been vaccinated against COVID-19 don’t have to quarantine at home as long as they were exposed while both parties were wearing a mask, don’t develop symptoms and periodically test negative.

Dr. Rebecca Sunenshine, the county’s medical director for disease control, said the goal is to keep students in classrooms as often as possible if the risk of increased spread isn’t present.

The current policy for unvaccinated students is seven days of quarantine after school exposure as long as a negative test is produced on the fifth day.

“The concept is you try everything you can to make the school environment as safe as possible while also maintaining the continuity of learning,” Sunenshine told KTAR News 92.3 FM on Monday.

The Madison district was selected because there is a mask requirement, and most of the students are under 12 years old and haven’t had the chance to be fully vaccinated.

Shots were approved for kids between 5-11 years old in early November.

The program began the week of Thanksgiving and is scheduled to run through Dec. 17.

“We wanted to do a pilot for this particular program in an environment where there was the least chance of having any inadvertent spread of the disease,” Sunenshine said.

Sunenshine said the county hopes to have the results of the pilot program in the first couple of weeks of January.

“As long as we don’t see a large enough difference between those two programs, we hope to move forward with expanding this program across the county early next year,” Sunenshine said.

KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Griselda Zetino contributed to this report.

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Maricopa County pilot program allows unvaccinated kids to stay in school after COVID-19 exposure