As forecasted last week, the Illinois Department of Public Health and Illinois State Board of Education revised existing regulations and guidance documents regarding exclusion from P-12 schools in Illinois to align with the new CDC guidance. The updated guidance consists of the following:
- Joint Part 5 Revised Public Health Guidance for Schools dated January 11, 2022 –available here.
- Updated January 13, 2022 FAQ for Schools– available here.
- Executive Order 2022-03 – available here.
- IDPH Interim Guidance for Schools – COVID-19 Exclusion Protocols – available here.
- IDPH Interim Guidance on Testing for COVID-19 in Community Settings and Schools issued January 12, 2022 – available here.
- Test to Stay Flowchart issued January 12, 2022 – available here.
Most of the key changes were summarized in our January 10, 2022 E-Note on the CDC Guidance, but all of the key changes are stated below:
- Quarantine & isolation time period is now shortened to five (5) calendar days from onset of symptoms (or date of specimen collection if asymptomatic) as long as individual has been fever, diarrhea and vomit free for 24 hours, has improved symptoms and is able to wear a well-fitted mask through Day 10 at all times.
- The shortened quarantine and isolation time periods apply to all persons who are confirmed or probable COVID-19 cases and all close contacts (unless exempted, as stated below)
- An adult who is 18 years of age and older has to be fully vaccinated, including boosters, in order to be exempted from a close contact isolation.
- Anyone returning after five (5) days must wear a mask around others for an additional five (5) calendar days – including outside.
- Those students who are utilizing Test-to-Stay or who were excluded from school can participate in extra-curricular events and sports when they return after 5 days or during TTS, but cannot participate in competitions/competitive play and performances until the full 10 days lapse.
- For individuals on school transportation (i.e. school buses), IDPH and ISBE recommend that contacts exposed to an infected person within 3 to 6 feet do not require exclusion as long as both the case and the contact were consistently and correctly masked during the entire exposure period and windows were opened or HEPA filters were in use.
- Test to Stay is only available for exposures occurring during the school setting that occur during the school day – notably excluding exposures during extracurricular activities.
- Test to Stay testing must be done at school – home tests are not allowed.
- Students and staff exempted from “close contact” would not have to go through the TTS procedure. Those are students and staff who (1) are fully vaccinated (which include boosters if over 18); (2) have tested positive for COVID-19 in the previous 90 days and are asymptomatic; (3) were exposed only outdoors; or (4) were not within 3 feet of an infected student.
Revised Isolation Guidance – Testing Positive for COVID-19
The revised IDPH/ISBE guidance states that staff or students who test positive for COVID-19, regardless of their vaccination status, should isolate from others for five (5) 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 rules adopt 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 individual should isolate for a total of ten days. 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. Students and staff returning to school after five (5) days are able to participate in all school activities, including extracurriculars, but cannot participate in competitions or performances until after the 10 days have lapsed.
Revised Quarantine Guidance – Close Contact for COVID-19
The revised ISBE/IDPH 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 individuals are individuals exempted from quarantine and cover those individuals who were within 6 feet (for staff) or 3-6 feet (for students) of a confirmed or probable COVID-19 case and, 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). Additionally, for close contacts on school transportation (who don’t otherwise fit in Category 1), contacts exposed to an infected person within 3 to 6 feet are also exempt from exclusion/quarantine as long as both the case and the contact were consistently and correctly masked for the entire exposure period and windows were opened allowing for good ventilation (front, middle, back, or overhead) or HEPA filters were in use. 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. Students and staff returning to school after five (5) days are able to participate in all school activities, including extracurriculars, but cannot participate in competitions or performances until after the 10 days have lapsed.
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.
Test to Stay Procedures
The revised IDPH guidance also provides additional clarification on the Test to Stay procedures and provides a detailed flow chart. It clarifies that Test to Stay (“TTS”) is only an option if the student or staff member was exposed to COVID-19 during the school day, while at school, and does not apply to exposures during extracurricular events. It also emphasizes that Test to Stay testing must be done at the school, so home tests are not allowed. Those who are within Category 1 for close contacts do not need to exclude at all, so they don’t need to participate in TTS to stay in school. Students participating in TTS cannot engage in competitions and performances during the testing period.