The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) published Thursday updated COVID-19 guidance for schools and early care and education (ECE) programs. The new COVID guidance for schools essentially signals an end to the remote schooling that the pandemic made unavoidable.
Among the updates to the existing COVID-19 guidance, the CDC:
- Removed information about Test to Stay
- Eliminated the recommendation to quarantine, except in high-risk congregate settings
- Removed the recommendation to cohort
- Changed recommendation to conduct screening testing
- Added detailed information on when to wear a mask, managing cases and exposures, and responding to outbreaks
“This guidance can help K-12 schools and ECE programs remain open and help their administrators support safe, in-person learning while reducing the spread of COVID-19,” the CDC says in its introduction to the updated guidance.
CDC no longer recommends routine screening testing in schools and ECE programs but says “at a high COVID-19 Community Level, they can consider screening testing for students and staff” for high-risk activities, before/after large events, and when returning from breaks.
Diagnostic testing can be offered “for students and staff with symptoms of COVID-19 or who were exposed to someone with COVID-19 in the K-12 or ECE setting.”
Since “a quarantine is no longer recommended for people exposed to COVID-19” – except in certain high-risk congregate settings – Test to Stay (TTS) is also no longer needed as quarantine is its key component. However, the CDC says that after exposure, students should wear a mask for 10 days regardless of vaccination status.
Under the TTS, schools allowed students exposed to the virus to remain at school if they agreed to take periodic tests.
CDC still recommends “universal indoor masking in schools and ECE programs at a high COVID-19 Community Level.” In healthcare settings, including school nurses’ offices, masking is recommended at all times, regardless of the current COVID-19 Community Level.
“Schools and [early childhood education] programs can also consider recommending masking and/or testing for a classroom in which a student was recently exposed who is unable to consistently and correctly wear a mask,” the guidance says.