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UNMC doctor explains when parents should quarantine their children

Published: Sep. 27, 2021 at 10:22 PM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - Whether it’s keeping a child away from classmates or teammates, a top infectious diseases doctor at UNMC is breaking down when parents should quarantine their children.

“If it’s a high-risk exposure so they’ve been in close contact with someone who’s tested positive,” said Dr. James Lawler, UNMC. “We can use that 6 feet and 15-minute rule, especially if everyone is unmasked.”

Using the example of a sports team, the doctor said parents need to be aware of positive cases.

“It’s important to identify who were the kids that were right around those people,” said Dr. Lawler. “Obviously, members of their team where they may have traveled together or may have been in the locker room together, within close proximity.”

High-risk exposure can extend beyond teammates.

“Other folks who may be at higher risk are kids from other teams who may have been congregating with those particular positive kids for a long period of time,” said Lawler.

If any of these scenarios sound familiar, said the doctor, it’s time to quarantine and get tested on day 10.

“The quickest way out of quarantine that I think has the highest reliability is a PCR test at the 10-day mark,” said Dr. Lawler, noting the PCR tests, not the rapid-take-home tests, which are also known as antigen tests. “It’s clear the data shows the sensitivity of those tests, their ability to pick up a true positive case is not nearly as good as the PCR tests.”

The exception being those who are symptomatic.

“If you have symptoms that are consistent with COVID then the antigen tests perform much better and they’re probably a pretty good strategy especially if you don’t have easy access to a PCR test.”

OneWorld Community Health Centers is working to make sure testing remains easily accessible in absence of the state’s TestNebraska sites, which were shut down months ago.

“We’re taking on the Omaha load,” said Andrea Skolkin, CEO, OneWorld Community Health Centers. “I think some people go to a pharmacy, but we’re taking on a heavy load.”

Skolkin said they are making a point of sending a clear message about quarantine.

“We’re telling people to go home and quarantine until we get the results.”

As tough as it may be, Dr. Lawler said it’s best for parents to err on the side of caution.

”Especially if you’re sending people back into higher-risk settings like schools.”

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