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CHICAGO — Illinois is changing the way it decides which students must quarantine and for how long. The rules will follow the latest recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The new guidance should keep more kids in the classrooms and out of quarantine. The change comes for who is considered to be a close contact with a positive COVID-19 case.

With kids back to school in the midst of the omicron surge, not only were more students and staff getting infected, but more and more were forced into quarantine.

“The point is we want to do this and we have been advising carefully on this. But we know it is important to keep everybody’s confidence that schools remain a settings that are not more of a source of spread than anywhere else. I am very confident that is true. I have no reason to think that will happen with the shortening of quarantine,” said Dr. Allison Arwady, Commissioner of the Chicago Department of Public Health.

The IDPH and Illinois State Board of Education will follow CDC guidance and cut quarantine time from 10 days to five.

“The risk goes down significantly after the five days, but it’s not really considered gone until about 10 days,” Arwady said.

Chicago Public Schools plans to institute the shorter quarantine period starting Feb. 1 and not before, which CPS CEO Padro Martinez wanted to make clear during a press conference Tuesday.

“We cannot bring children back in a way that will create risks for them or their peers. So I ask for patience on that, but anybody who’s quarantined, whether staff or students, affected from Feb. 1 on, we will bed aligned to new CDC guidelines,” Martinez said.

Other changes include who exactly is considered to be a close contact. Fully vaccinated children and staff who are showing no symptoms are already exempt from quarantine, but now anyone who had Covid will also be exempt as long as their positive test was within 90 days of the next exposure and are not exhibiting any symptoms.

Part of the reason why CPS is waiting to Feb. 1 to institute the new rules is to give schools time to prepare, as well as parents to be able to identify symptoms to make sure people coming back to school won’t cause more kids to get sick.