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WADSWORTH, Ohio (WJW)– As some schools resume in-person learning, they’re doing so under new state guidelines relaxing recommendations on who should quarantine because of COVID-19 cases.

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine announced last week the state is no longer recommending students or staff exposed to a student with the virus in a classroom setting quarantine, as long as masks are worn and social distancing protocols are followed.

It marks a departure from U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines for schools, which call for quarantines among close contacts, defined as someone who was within 6 feet of a person diagnosed with COVID-19 for a total of 15 minutes or more.

DeWine said the change is based on a research study conducted in Ohio among more than 700 students, which found students aren’t at an increased risk of contracting COVID in the classroom when protocols are followed.

“This will be one more step to keep our kids in the classroom, which we know is where we want them to be,” DeWine said.

A study in Mississippi produced similar results to the Ohio study.

“There was no discernible difference in the incidence rate among the exposed students and the students who weren’t exposed,” said Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff, chief medical officer with the Ohio Department of Health.

Ohio Education Association President Scott DiMauro said some teachers are concerned about the change, but it may also reduce disruptions to learning that result from groups of students switching to virtual learning as a result of quarantines.

“There are some benefits, but we want to be cautious to make sure schools are following those social distancing and mask requirements,” he said.

Wadsworth City Schools Superintendent Dr. Andy Hill said the change is welcome in the district, which resumed in-person learning Monday after students were learning virtually for two weeks in December leading into the holiday break.

“It’s a game changer for us, especially at our high school level,” Hill said.

He said it is expected to cut school-related quarantines by as much as 90 percent. The district switched high school instruction to virtual learning in November because of disruptions caused by quarantines, which resulted in more than 200 high school students being out of class some days.

“We’re happy because we feel it’s going to be less disruptive, but most importantly, we’re happy because it’s based on data of what they’ve seen that suggests the change is safe,” Hill said.

DeWine said contacts should still quarantine if masks or social distancing protocols are not followed, and the change only applies to classrooms, not extracurricular activities including sports.

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