Hamilton County Schools says it can't enforce COVID-19 quarantines of individuals as a result of new state laws

Staff file Photo by Robin Rudd / Orchard Knob Middle School Sixth Grade Assistant Principal Travis Miller, right, directs students. Orchard Knob Middle School started the 2021-2022 school year under a Hamilton County Schools system-wide mask mandate on August 12 because of the surge in the delta variant of COVID-19.

Hamilton County Schools and other public school districts in Tennessee can no longer stop students who are exposed to or who test positive for COVID-19 from attending school based on their diagnosis alone, according to the district's interpretation of a new state law.

The school district announced its policy change in a news release last week, which stated: "For purposes of COVID-19, a public school district may no longer enforce an individual quarantine at any point. This authority will be left solely to the discretion of the [state] commissioner of health," Dr. Lisa Piercey.

Sabrina Novak, Hamilton County Health Department administrator, said in an email that "the process [to quarantine or isolate for COVID-19] is still the same, but the ability to enforce it has been changed, taking it from the local level to the state level.