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Some New Hampshire teachers who squeeze in last-minute vacations or other trips just before school starts this fall would be able to bypass quarantine restrictions under public health guidance discussed Friday.

The state’s general travel guidelines aimed at preventing the spread of the coronavirus say that New Hampshire residents should quarantine at home for 14 days after traveling anywhere outside New England.

“We have heard that this is potentially prohibitory for starting of schools because many teachers and staff may be traveling outside of New England to, for example, bring their own children to college,” state epidemiologist Dr. Ben Chan said during a weekly call with school nurses.

In light of those concerns, the state is recommending that for the start of the school year, teachers who have traveled be allowed to work if they traveled by private car, had no close contact with anyone with a confirmed or suspected case of COVID-19 and wear a face covering at work for at least 14 days.

Chan and deputy state epidemiologist Dr. Elizabeth Talbot answered dozens of questions from nurses, including whether siblings of students being tested for the virus need to quarantine (in general, no) and whether students should be required to wear face masks outside (yes).

“I myself feel a tremendous relief when I take my mask off at the end of a very long day, when I’m outside in the sunshine, but I only do it if I can be 100% sure no one is going to come into my downwind space or within 6 feet, and I don’t think that’s the precedent we want to set in school settings,” said Talbot.

“We’re facing together as a culture a new normal of wearing masks and whatever we can do to facilitate that, and look for ways to reward it and encourage it and enable it, is going to put us in a better place,” she said. “We have been thoughtful and conservative about this guidance, and I’m afraid this is one I’m just gonna say, yeah, that’s the ideal. That’s what we want to accomplish — people becoming used to and familiar with wearing their masks.”

The state isn’t mandating masks, but rather leaving such decisions to individual school districts.

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