From Maplewood Health Officer Candice Davenport and South Orange Health Officer John Festa:
The Health Departments of Maplewood and South Orange have adopted the modified 7-10 days quarantine* for community exposure while the regional transmission level is in MODERATE, in order to stay consistent with the recent quarantine changes at the school district. Once the regional transmission level moves to HIGH, then the state recommendation is to return to the 14 day quarantine for both community and in school transmission and that is what Maplewood and South Orange will follow.
The purpose of a quarantine is to prevent the spread of disease in the community and stop the chain of infection; the intent is to protect others.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, we have followed the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the New Jersey Department of Health (NJDOH) guidance of a 10 day isolation for those who are COVID positive and a 14 day quarantine for those who are close contacts. Because we have been cautious, careful and stringent in our approach we have averted and prevented the further spread of COVID in the community thereby reducing the risk of illness, hospitalization and deaths. The 14 day quarantine is still the preferred and strongly recommended quarantine guidance by the NJDOH. However, we also recognize that as society is opening up, people are returning back to work, and we are in a situation where full in person school is the only option, the 14 day quarantine for community transmissions has been difficult and a hardship.
The modified quarantine as per the NJDOH and CDC is an “acceptable alternative” only while we are in Moderate transmission levels. We understand that there is an increased need to go back to normal after 19 months. However, we still must do our part in decreasing the risk of transmission in our community. While there has been substantial progress with vaccine availability for those 12 and over, this year we are facing a COVID-19 variant with a higher viral load than the original virus. This means this variant of the virus can spread faster in the community and is twice as likely to result in hospitalizations, especially among the unvaccinated population. For this reason, when the time comes that our regional transmission rate is determined to be HIGH by the NJDOH, we will return to the 14 day quarantine, and expect the public’s full cooperation and compliance.
Lastly, we ask for the community’s understanding during this time. These last 19 months have been difficult for everyone and continue to be a major challenge for those of us in public health and all healthcare settings as we have seen the number of COVID cases rise over the last two months and as COVID hospital admissions increase. Everyone is trying their best to fulfill the mission of opening up safely and getting students back to in-person learning while still keeping the community safe. As the local health departments, we strive to serve the needs of the community, and adapt as state and federal guidance, based on science, is updated.
Curtailing the spread of COVID-19 is a community effort. Here are some ways you can do your part to decrease the risk of transmission in the community:
- Get vaccinated (for those who are eligible)
- Test regularly especially after travel, if you have been exposed, and if you have symptoms
- Masking and social distancing is recommended for those who are unvaccinated when they are in large group settings with people who are not of your household and/or you are in close contact with others who are also unvaccinated
- Consider the amount, and type of gatherings you plan to attend, especially if you have an unvaccinated household member. Consider if it is worth the disruption of a quarantine, if you were exposed at that gathering or event.
- Continue to practice social distancing
- Outdoor activities are safer than indoor activities but more mitigation strategies put in place in either scenario, helps to reduce risk
- Outdoor sports are recommended to mask and maintain 6 feet of social distancing on the sidelines and to wear a mask when walking on or off the field. It is understood that when in active play, mask wearing can be more detrimental, however consider reducing the unmasked playing time to less than 15 minutes, per player for the entire game. For more guidance, refer to https://www.nj.gov/health/cd/documents/topics/NCOV/COVID_GuidanceForSportsActivities.pdf
- Be honest in your exposure history. Quarantine prevents the spread of the virus to others. Remember that not everyone is eligible to be vaccinated whether that be due to age reasons or medical concerns. While some may recover easily from this virus- not everyone is as fortunate.
*The modified quarantine refers to a quarantine of 7 days from last date of exposure if tested on day 3-5 and the test result is negative. It is 10 days of quarantine if a person does not get a test.
To follow the weekly COVID-19 CALI Score Surveillance Reports and monitor the regional transmission level, go to: https://www.nj.gov/health/cd/statistics/covid/#1
Candice Davenport, RN, BSN, MPH, MCHES, HO
Health Officer, Public Health Nursing Supervisor, Health Educator
Maplewood Health Department
John M. Festa, MA
South Orange Health Department