Quarantine and Contact Tracing

BEGINNING NOV. 8, 2021

The Maryland Department of Health (MDH) and the Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE) revised school quarantine guidance on Oct. 27. If certain criteria are met, students may not have to quarantine, or may be asked to quarantine for a reduced period of time. This new guidance is expected to reduce the number of Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) students required to quarantine and participate in virtual learning.

What Is New:

Based on the guidance from MDH and MSDE, and in collaboration with the Montgomery County Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), there will now be two categories for no quarantine or a shortened quarantine period for close contacts of an individual who tests positive with COVID-19. Close contacts are individuals who are less than 6 feet from someone who tests positive for a cumulative total of 15 minutes over the course of 24 hours, or less than 3 feet in a classroom setting.

  1. Cases where the infected student and close contacts are wearing masks during the exposure and the exposure was not during a high-risk activity: The close contacts must be enrolled in, or must sign up for, the MCPS COVID-19 screening testing program. As long as they consent to participate in the screening testing program, they can continue to come to school each day. However, they cannot participate in high-risk school-sponsored activities and are expected to still quarantine outside the school setting. The state defines high-risk settings or activities as “indoor or high-contact athletics, and indoor forced exhalation activities, such as singing, exercising, or playing a wind or brass instrument.” Families can enroll in the screening testing program by filling out the form linked here.
  2. Test-to-Stay Program: Students who are close contacts of a positive COVID-19 case and are not wearing masks during the exposure such as lunch or periods of eating and drinking. The Test-to-Stay program will allow the close contacts to come to school and take rapid COVID-19 tests for five days. As long as the rapid tests are negative, these students would then be allowed to attend their classes. This program will begin in a limited number of schools and will expand to more schools in the coming weeks.
  3. All other situations, including when masks are not worn or when the infected individual is an adult: This includes identified close contacts for exposure that occurs during high-risk settings or activities. In these cases, unvaccinated close contacts will be required to quarantine for 10 days, but can return to school after day 7 if the close contact submits and a negative PCR test taken on or after day 5 from the last date of exposure.

Quarantine Decision Flowchart  

Diagrama de flujo para decisiones sobre las cuarentenas

What Has Not Changed: 

Symptomatic individuals with a positive COVID-19 test must quarantine for 10 days, self-monitor for 14 days, and can only return to schools if free from COVID-19 symptoms, including fever of 100.4 or more, sore throat, cough, difficulty breathing, diarrhea, vomiting, and loss of taste or smell. As before, the quarantine guidance only applies to unvaccinated individuals.  Asymptomatic vaccinated individuals will not need to quarantine, as has been the case throughout this school year.


Contact Tracing

MCPS follows the recommendations and guidance of DHHS and School Health Services regarding the need to isolate and quarantine students due to a positive COVID test or exposure.

Following CDC guidelines, MCPS staff work with classroom and school staff to gather information, including seating charts, classroom activities, lunch and recess contacts, and identifies close contacts who need to quarantine.

A letter is sent to all families of students who are required to quarantine and provides information on monitoring for symptoms, when to seek medical care, who to contact if they test positive or develop symptoms during quarantine, the length of quarantine and return date, free testing and vaccination sites in the county, and information regarding further contact by the Department of Health.

See the letter templates:

MCPS is in the process of hiring 10 additional contact tracers to assist and support schools with identifying close contacts.