MIAMI (WSVN) - Miami-Dade County Public Schools has changed its protocol as to how high school students and staff quarantine following COVID-19 exposure.

M-DCPS Superintendent Alberto Carvalho announced Friday changes to the district’s policy that will begin on Monday.

“We’ve deliberated very carefully about the current state of affairs in Miami-Dade specific to health and environmental conditions in our community,” Carvalho said. “Current protocol requires a 10-day quarantine of employees and students who are not vaccinated for no less than 10 days. Effective Monday, any one individual who is unvaccinated can obtain a PCR test on or after the fifth day after direct contact. If that test is negative, they can return to the schoolhouse.”

Carvalho said vaccinated students and staff who are asymptomatic are not required to quarantine. With the new rules, students can return to the classroom seven to eight days after exposure.

“The science is clear,” Carvalho said. “There are clear advantages to being vaccinated. For us to keep our schools open and viable as centers of education for our kids, we all must do our part. COVID-19 vaccine is no different from the vaccines that generations of Americans have benefited from.”

The superintendent also said the district will provide criteria to their task force to consider that will help them determine if and when they can relax their rules. One of the metrics states COVID-19 patients cannot take up more than 15% of hospital beds.

“Based on improved conditions, it is time to reduce the quarantine period,” Carvalho said. “If they need to be quarantined, absolutely they will do it, but let’s reduce the time they are out of school, and that’s 100% driven by improved health conditions in our community.”

However, he said the mask mandates will remain in place and will continue to be enforced.

“If this criteria, this set of criteria, based on these metrics are approved by our medical experts, then we will consider relaxing the protocol, maintaining still a mask-mandatory protocol in place but allowing some degree of parent opt-out,” Carvalho said.

United Teachers of Dade released a statement Friday night on the district’s new quarantine rules that reads, “We agree with the latest guidelines issued by the CDC. UTD continues to follow the advice of medical experts and public health agencies. We encourage everyone who can to get fully vaccinated and wear their masks, especially to protect children under 12 who do not yet have access to the vaccine.”

The quarantine time for elementary and middle school students will not change because those students do not have access to the vaccine, according to the superintendent.

Click here to look through the district’s updated COVID-19 quarantine policy.

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