It’s Madness to Quarantine Schoolchildren

Leslie Bienen and Eric Happel~

An Oregon high school ordered all 2,680 of its students to stay home for a week and a half in September—two days of complete shutdown, followed by a week of online classes. Oregon Public Broadcasting reports that the district sent a “flash alert message” to parents at Reynolds High at 5:35 a.m. informing them that their children wouldn’t be allowed in school that day.

It’s not hard to guess why. OPB reports that in the first two weeks of school “875 high school students and staff members . . . had to quarantine” before the shutdown. All that was in response to a mere four positive tests for Covid-19. Oregon is following the advice of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Despite the disease’s low risk to young people and the widespread vaccination of adults, the CDC continues to recommend seven- to 14-day quarantines for schoolchildren who are suspected of having been exposed to the virus.

Thirty states have set aside the CDC’s guidelines, according to our research, and the agency itself has published studies suggesting that such measures are unnecessary. Yet the CDC has dragged its feet in considering a less-restrictive alternative known as “test to stay.”