Parents of school-age children have a lot on their plates, even without a global pandemic to worry about.

New COVID-19 guidelines from the Minnesota Department of Health add to the tornado of information parents, teachers and child care providers must weather if they want to keep their charges safe. But the new guidelines do little to comfort working parents who may be suddenly forced to stay at home for 14 days to watch a child who's not even sick.

The state on Sept. 14 released two new tools, an attendance guide for parents and families, and a decision tree for schools and child care providers.

The 8-page parents guide offers definitions for such things as "isolation," (keeping sick people away from healthy people) and "quarantine," (keeping people who have been exposed to a sick person away from others).

It also lists COVID-19 symptoms, though a child may test positive without showing symptoms, and outlines a number of scenarios when a child must stay home. One of the big catch-points for parents is this: "If a child must stay home because they have symptoms, the other children living in the house need to stay home from school or child care, too" (quarantined for at least 14 days).

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Some of the guidelines can be confusing. For example, being exposed to someone who has tested positive for the virus requires a longer quarantine (14 days) than the isolation of a child who has tested positive (10 days).

Another that was vexing: Your child must stay home for 14 days after close contact with anyone who tests positive, even if the child tests negative, because they could develop COVID-19 for up to 14 days.

"We know it's not easy for parents or for our students who suddenly need to make alternate arrangements for their children for up to two weeks," the health department's Susan Klammer told Post Bulletin reporter Paul Scott. "But it's one of our best tools to prevent spread."

That said, winter is coming, and with it will come the usual coughs, sniffles and sneezes. More than ever, people who are sick will need to stay home and not infect their classmates or coworkers with even an ordinary cold.

But the state guidelines, however well-intentioned, will be hard for working parents to manage. We hope those guidelines can be reassessed and refined as the school year progresses, making staying safe more workable for parents who work.