An updated guidance document from the Trump Administration now designates teachers and school staff as “essential critical infrastructure” workers, which would allow them to remain in classrooms and schools after being exposed to the pandemic coronavirus, rather than going into quarantine.
The guidance is not a directive—school districts can still decline to include educators in the designation. But some school districts have already made the designation and have signaled that they will keep teachers out of quarantines after exposures, as long as they remain symptom free. That includes school districts in Tennessee and Georgia, according to a report by the Associated Press.
Keeping exposed teachers in schools raises the risks that they could spread the infection to students and coworkers while showing no symptoms. Studies so far have suggested that infected people may be most infectious around the time they first develop symptoms. Researches have repeatedly found that levels of viral material in the upper respiratory tract are at their highest right around the time when people first notice symptoms. Additionally, some infected people do not develop symptoms but can still harbor similar levels of the virus as symptomatic people, according to several studies.