On March 9, 2021, the IDPH and ISBE issued a Revised Public Health Guidance for Schools, Part 4 – Transition Joint Guidance, which updates the previous Part 3 Transition Joint Guidance issued in June of 2020. A copy of the Revised Guidance can be found here.
The Revised Guidance states that all schools must use and layer the following five essential mitigation strategies for in person instruction:
- Require universal and correct use of appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE), including face masks;
- Require social distancing be observed, as much as possible;
- Require contact tracing in combination with isolation of those with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 and quarantine of close contacts, in collaboration with the local health department;
- Require an increase in schoolwide cleaning and disinfection and maintenance of healthy environments; and
- Require promotion and adherence to handwashing and respiratory etiquette
These required mitigation strategies remove the 50 person cap and the symptom screening and temperature checks and now require contact tracing and quarantining and promotion of handwashing and respiratory etiquette. Self-screening for COVID-19 like symptoms prior to arriving at school or getting on a school bus is still recommended. The Revised Guidance goes into greater detail about the 5 mitigation strategies.
The other big changes in the Revised Guidance are that capacity limits for in-person learning, including non-academic school hour activities such as lunch, are now determined by the space’s ability to accommodate social distancing, and not a set capacity limit number or percentage. Bus capacity remains at no more than 50 people per bus. Additionally, the recommendation for social distancing for in-person learning is now defined as 3 to 6 feet for students and fully vaccinated staff. Unvaccinated staff should maintain 6 feet social distance from all individuals. Finally, vaccinated individuals or those who had a lab-confirmed COVID-19 case within the past 90 days are not required to quarantine if identified as a close contact to a confirmed case.