Bucks health director says 'modified quarantine' will minimize school disruption

Back to school
Photo credit Paul Hennessy/NurPhoto via Getty Images
By KYW Newsradio 1060

UPDATED: 4 p.m.

DOYLESTOWN, Pa. (KYW Newsradio) — As suburban school districts prepare to start the academic year, Buck County's health director is setting out guidelines for a “modified quarantine." In the event that any students contract COVID-19, schools will not automatically be shut down.

Dr. David Damsker says everyone is already operating in a modified quarantine — wearing masks to go to stores and work — and the county’s first responders have been working within a modified quarantine since March. 

Damsker says the county has not seen anyone who has spread the virus while using the modified quarantine.

"This is in areas like a hospital, police station, other first responders, where one exposure could potentially cripple an entire hospital or an entire police force," he said. "And we realized very quickly that that was just not something we could tolerate."

He says the modified quarantine calls for the exposed person to wear a mask, monitor symptoms and stay home if they feel sick. Damsker says this can also apply to schools.

“We feel comfortable saying that, if there is a case in the classroom, that child goes home, of course — on isolation, because they actually are a case — and everyone else continues to go to school under the masking guidelines.”

Damsker says shutting school down for one case is too disruptive for the students and the schools. 

“School should not shut down every time there's a case in a school, every time there’s a case in a classroom," he said. "Because then it becomes a game of ping pong, where someone says, 'I was possibly exposed. Oh, I'm gonna shut down the classroom 14 days.' The kids are going back and forth back and forth."

Damsker says COVID-19 is going to be with us for a while, so we have to deal with it. He says modified quarantine allows that. 

“We’re all walking around in modified quarantine all the time anyway. And I think once people think about it that way, you know what? What's the difference? When you go into a store, you already assume everyone around you has coronavirus. That's why we’re all masking and distancing. That’s the whole point."

Damsker says those who have a knee-jerk reaction to shut school down completely are not looking at the long-term picture. He says the coronavirus is going to be with us for a while, and we need to be able to return to out regular routines.

“This allows people the flexibility to go to work, to go to school and continue living their lives."

He says this is just one more tool in the tool box and is a major development in addressing the pandemic.