North Dakota updates quarantine guidance to provide exception for close contacts who were wearing masks

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BISMARCK, N.D. – Gov. Doug Burgum and the North Dakota Department of Health (NDDOH) today announced updated guidance for the quarantining of individuals who are identified as close contacts to COVID-19 positive individuals.

The guidance has been updated to reflect that in non-health care, non-residential settings, when the positive case and close contact have both been wearing a face covering consistently and correctly for the entire time, the close contact will not need to self-quarantine at home.

“This is a common-sense approach that creates an incentive for people to wear face coverings and provides for a more positive school experience for students, faculty, administrators and parents,” Burgum said, noting the updated guidance applies retroactively if both parties were wearing masks.

The quarantine exception includes, but may not be limited to:

  • Child care centers where staff and older children (age 2 or above) are able to wear a mask.
  • Group homes  
  • K-12 schools and preschools
  • Colleges and universities
  • Work settings
  • Social interactions
  • Other settings where both the infected person and contact were masked during the exposure.

Close contacts who meet the quarantine exception should still self-monitor, which means wearing a face covering and keeping a close eye out for any symptoms, said Kirby Kruger, an epidemiologist and director of the NDDOH Division of Disease Control.

Kruger said the updated guidelines are based on mounting evidence, evaluated by public health experts including NDDoH epidemiologists and infectious disease experts, supporting the effectiveness of masks in reducing transmission.

“The evidence is clear: The steps we take by wearing a mask have a direct impact on the spread of COVID-19,” Kruger said. “In addition, individuals should continue to stay home when sick, keep 6 feet of distance, wash hands frequently and sanitize frequently touched surfaces. Thank you in advance for doing your part to keep our state safe.”

“We continue to learn more about this 11-month-old virus every single day,” said Dr. Joan Connell, NDDoH field medical officer. “Strong evidence showing that utilization of the face covering, this inexpensive tool that can be easily used by most people, results in truly significant decrease in spread of infection could not come at a better time as we in North Dakota face unprecedented rates of coronavirus infection in our communities. We are excited that we can use this science to shape policy that helps keep North Dakotans healthy, at work, and in school.”

“We are seeing greater and greater evidence that masking is an effective means of preventing spread of the virus between individuals,” said Dr. Paul Carson, an infectious disease specialist and professor of public health at North Dakota State University. “Many experts now believe that the regular use of masks has the potential to significantly control our outbreaks. We think it is reasonable to consider that if an infected person was in close contact with a susceptible person, when both parties were faithfully masked, the likelihood of transmission is so low that self-monitoring rather than full quarantine is a reasonable plan of action. This should give us all even more incentive to regularly wear our masks when we are interacting with others in public.”

The definition of close contacts hasn’t changed and will continue to be defined as individuals who have been within 6 feet of an infected person for a total of 15 minutes during a 24-hour period. Close contacts who don’t meet the quarantine exception will still need to be quarantined for 14 days from their last exposure, Kruger said.

Also, people who have been diagnosed with COVID-19 will still be required to isolate for at least 10 days, with absence of fever for at least 24 hours and improvement in symptoms, Kruger noted.

For more information on North Dakota’s COVID-19 response, visit www.health.nd.gov/coronavirus or www.ndresponse.gov.

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