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13 WTHR Indianapolis | Indianapolis Local News & Weather

Student quarantines: What parents should know

13 Investigates discovered it boils down to a positive exposure, how close the contact and whether COVID-19-like symptoms are present.

INDIANAPOLIS — Thousands of students nationwide have been sent home to quarantine so far. That includes hundreds in one Delaware County school district. It has caused some confusion over who should be quarantined and for how long.

13 Investigates discovered it boils down to a positive exposure, how close the contact and whether COVID-19-like symptoms are present.

The mother of a 15-year-old Delta Middle School student first alerted 13News to what she believed to be mixed messages.

Her son was one of 68 students sent home to quarantine Monday after a possible exposure to COVID-19. Her understanding was her child would need to spend 14 days at home with limited personal contact. But days later, she said that all changed.

"I received a phone call from the school saying that the child tested negative, and my student could return to everyday functions. As a parent, I am confused," she wrote.

Part of her confusion came from an advisory from the Delaware County Health Department, which read:

"If you are notified... that your child has been identified as a 'close contact' of a student that has tested positive, then your child must quarantine for 14 days."

While it might appear the messages are contradictory, 13 Investigates found there are important distinctions. From the onset, It's important to note the parent is talking about a student awaiting a test, while the county health department is talking about exposure to a student who has, in fact, already tested positive for the virus.

And the Delaware County Health Department goes on to outline steps parents should take regarding a "close contact" exposure to someone who has tested positive.

"If you choose to have your child tested and the test is negative, he still needs to quarantine for 14 days," said the guidance.

According to health officials, the child could still have the virus and a "false negative test" which is due to testing being done too soon after exposure.

Health experts believe the best time to get tested is five days after exposure.

The health guidance goes on to tell parents "The important thing is to isolate the child and monitor for symptoms."

The Delaware County School superintendent previously told 13News the quarantine there is the result of students having exposures outside the classroom and showing up to school with symptoms. It's why the district took aggressive action and quarantined 228 students.

The State Health commissioner warns parents they play a critical role in helping to stop the spread.

"Don't send your children to school if they have any symptoms or are waiting for test results," said Dr Kris Box.

The State's Back to School guide does not appear to prohibit students from returning to activities if there is no confirmed exposure and the student has not shown COVID-19-like symptoms.