‘Highly recommend’? OKC-County Health Department clarifies quarantine confusion for Oklahoma school districts

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OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – Confusion continues at Oklahoma school districts when it comes to what they can enforce for COVID quarantines.

Oklahoma City-County Health Department is one of two in the state that can enforce a quarantine due to a state statute.

And although the department “highly recommends” quarantine after a COVID exposure or test, it’s not just a recommendation.

“It states that it’s highly recommended – it’s a play on words,” says OKC-County Health Department’s Eddie Withers. “It almost always says it’s highly recommended or suggested because you’re talking to other adults and you hope they make the correct decision.”

Withers, the department’s head epidemiologist, says he hopes the districts will take care of those situations and enforce quarantines themselves.

But if a parent were to decline, or if a district were to not report and the department found out, that’s when they could get involved.

“If that goes a certain way and we need to go down a legal path obviously we would,” Withers says. “But that litigation process is going to be lengthy.”

Only a handful of school districts in Oklahoma County do explicitly say quarantine is required. Edmond Public Schools became the latest to do so after changing their protocol last week.

“They just wanted to be sure who the backing was in a sense of the quarantines and isolations,” Withers said about the change. “They’ve done a fantastic point in changing what they needed to change and understanding what it was.”

When KFOR asked why not just call it required, Withers says they’re following the written CDC guidance, which also uses the term highly recommended.

Withers says he would like to see other districts make the change as well.

Although he admits the department contributed to the confusion when deciding its legal abilities to enforce a potential quarantine order, he has one message to any district who still needs clarification: “Give me a call.”

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