For months, Hardin County school boards have debated whether to keep their mask mandates, which were put in place to slow the spread of COVID-19, or yield to a growing chorus of demands to repeal them. Many of those debates were silenced Friday when, without warning, the Iowa Department of Public Health issued new guidance that changes rules around quarantine protocol, clearing the way for schools to make masks and other face coverings optional for students and staff.
The state distributed the new guidance Friday afternoon via a letter from Iowa Department of Public Health Interim Director Kelly Garcia. Before Friday, IDPH guidance stated that anyone exposed to a COVID-19-positive individual while not wearing a mask had to quarantine for 10 days. Under the new guidance, no quarantine is required, regardless of mask usage and exposure. Only the person who tests positive will have to stay home from school. Parents of students who were exposed will be provided with information about COVID-19, but they’ll be allowed to make their own decisions about whether to get tested, stay home or continue to attend school.