Just days after school resumed for many Fort Bend County students, administrators at districts across the county found themselves in a familiar position – forced to adapt guidelines in response to a growing number of coronavirus cases.

Fort Bend ISD, for instance, shortened the recommended time that people who test positive for the virus should stay home from 10 to five days, in response to new guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), said Sherry Williams, spokesperson for the district.

“Fort Bend ISD is shortening the recommended isolation time for individuals who test positive for COVID-19 from 10 calendar days to five calendar days if, by day five, the individual has no fever, no other symptoms or mild symptoms that are improving,” Williams said. “Mask wearing is strongly encouraged upon return.”

The district’s change in directive did not pass without some controversy, amongst parents.

“Due to the fact that we’re not mandating masks (which I’m OK with) they should have left the quarantine timeline at 10 days,” wrote one parent on social media.

The changes seem like they'll cause unnecessary illness, said Valerie Callahan, a parent with three children in the district.

Similarly, those in Stafford MSD that test positive must isolate for five days since symptoms first appeared, or since first testing positive, provided that they have been fever-free for 24 hours or are free of body aches and have improved symptoms, according to Gracie Martinez, spokesperson for the district.

The new guidance comes as coronavirus cases have been surging across the county in recent weeks, spurred by the arrival of the omicron variant. There are about 106,000 positive cases in the county, an increase of about 500 percent over three weeks ago, according to Jacquelyn Minter, the county’s health authority.

“It does look to be milder, especially in those who are vaccinated,” she said of omicron cases.

Most school districts in Fort Bend County that changed their isolation and quarantine procedures cited new CDC guidelines in their decisions.

The new guidance recommends that children who are exposed to the virus should quarantine for at least five days, along with those who test positive and that those who test positive should wear a mask for an extra five days after leaving isolation, according to an article on CNN.

While local school districts have moved to reduce isolation time in response to the new guidance, the districts are not unanimously adopting all of the CDC’s recommendations. Fort Bend ISD, for instance, is only recommending people wear masks, not requiring them.

And in Stafford MSD, district administrators are no longer requiring those that have been exposed to quarantine, according to Martinez.

“Students may quarantine at home if they choose, the decision is up to each parent/guardian,” she said.

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