BATON ROUGE, La. — Leaders of several Louisiana public school systems called on state officials Monday to relax coronavirus quarantine rules that have sent thousands of students home from school because they have been in close proximity to someone who tested positive for COVID-19.
But state health officials said they aren’t recommending any changes to the quarantine regulations as Louisiana sees its third spike in coronavirus cases, with hospitals cautioning they are concerned the latest surge will overwhelm their facilities.
School superintendents from Ascension, West Baton Rouge, Rapides and Livingston parishes told lawmakers that too many students are missing in-person classroom instruction because they have been sent home for 14 days to quarantine.
“We have a lot of healthy kids who are home when they don’t need to be,” West Baton Rouge Parish Superintendent Wesley Watts told the House health committee. “We’re not asking to do away with quarantine. We’re just asking for some modifications.”
That argument hasn’t persuaded the Louisiana Department of Health, which helped set the school quarantines based on advice from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“We continue to follow CDC guidance on quarantine and so are not recommending any changes to K-12 guidance at this time,” health department spokeswoman Aly Neel said in a statement after the hearing.
More than 11,000 new infections of the COVID-19 disease caused by the virus have been confirmed in the state over the last week, and 6,039 people in Louisiana are confirmed to have died from the disease since March, according to the health department.
Louisiana’s schools are required to follow virus safety guidelines adopted by the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, based on recommendations from the health department.
“We are losing what is supposed to be the best year of high school because of COVID,” said Brennan Falgout, a senior at Central Lafourche High School. He told lawmakers: “I’m hoping we can find an answer to this and try to save the rest of the senior year that I have.”