The CDC issued revised guidance for COVID-19 isolation and COVID-19 quarantine for K-12 schools on January 6, 2022. The Illinois Department of Public Health and Illinois State Board of Education announced on January 7, 2022 their intention to revise existing regulations and guidance documents regarding exclusion from P-12 schools in Illinois to align with the new CDC guidance.
Revised CDC Isolation Guidance – Testing Positive for COVID-19
The revised CDC guidance states that staff or students who test positive for COVID-19, regardless of their vaccination status, should isolate from others for five days. In order to calculate the five day isolation period, day zero is the first day of symptoms or the specimen collection date if the individual is asymptomatic. Following five days of isolation, staff or students who tested positive for COVID-19 and have no symptoms or are have resolving symptoms can be released from their isolation.
After staff or students who test positive for COVID-19 are released from isolation, the CDC recommends three additional safety measures for schools. First, the individual should continue to wear a well-fitted mask around others for five additional days after release from isolation. This includes wearing a well-fitted mask at home. If the person is unable to wear a mask around others, the CDC recommends that the individual isolate for a total of ten days. Second, staff or students who tested positive for COVID-19 but have been released from isolation should avoid contact with staff or students who are immunocompromised or at a high risk of severe disease. Third, the CDC recommends that following release from isolation, the individual ensure six feet of physical distance from others when they need to remove their mask until ten days after symptom onset or positive test. As such, during lunch or snack break, schools need to ensure that those who have recently tested positive are at least six (6) feet away from other students while their mask is removed.
Revised CDC Quarantine Guidance – Close Contact for COVID-19
The revised CDC guidance also addresses the quarantine period for individuals who are close contacts to someone with COVID-19 and groups individuals into two categories. Category 1 are those who are 18 years old or older and have received all recommended vaccination doses (including boosters and additional primary shots for some immunocompromised peoples), those 5-17 years old who have completed the primary series of COVID-19 vaccines, and those individuals who had a confirmed case of COVID-19 with the last ninety days. Individuals in this group who are close contacts (1) do not need to quarantine, (2) should wear a mask around others for ten days; and (3) and should test on the fifth day (if possible). If the individual develops symptoms, they should immediately isolate until a negative test confirms symptoms are not caused by COVID-19.
Category 2 are those ages 18 or older who completed the primary series of recommended vaccine but have not received the recommended booster when eligible, those who received the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine over two months ago and have not received a recommended booster shot, and those who are unvaccinated or have not completed a primary vaccine series. Individuals in this category (1) must stay at home and mask around others for five (5) days; (2) continue to wear a mask around others for an additional five (5) days after; and (3) test on day five (if possible). If the person develops symptoms of COVID-19, they should immediately isolate until a negative test confirms that their symptoms are not caused by COVID-19.
The CDC guidance strongly recommends that schools ensure that they have plans in place for individuals with confirmed COVID-19 and those identified as close contacts to stay masked at all times indoors upon return and through day ten. If there are times where the individual must unmask during the school day, such as at lunch, the school should have a plan to keep the individual adequately distanced from others.
The full text of the CDC revised guidance for COVID-19 Quarantine for K-12 Schools is available here.
The full text of the CDC revised guidance for COVID-19 Isolation for K-12 Schools is available here.