(The Center Square) – Washington Department of Health has revised the guidelines for reducing the transmission of COVID-19 in schools for the coming year.
The revised guidelines were released this week under the authority of Gov. Jay Inslee’s declaration of a state of emergency due to COVID-19, issued two and a half years ago.
Revisions to the 20-page advisory include updated policies on exposure notification requirements for children, outbreak definition and reporting requirements, requirements for returning to school after isolation, and a clarification of the required isolation protocol.
Schools and childcare providers are required to inform children and families of cases and outbreaks in their facilities. DOH encourages providers to include the number of cases and the location within the facility where students may have been exposed to the virus. Staff members must also be notified.
When outbreaks occur, schools and childcare providers must respond with actions to mitigate the effect. These measures could include universal indoor masking, increased testing, or moving activities outdoors.
DOH defines an outbreak in a K-12 school setting with the following criteria:
- Multiple probable or confirmed COVID-19 cases comprising at least 10% of students, teachers, or staff within a specified core group, or at least 3 probable or confirmed cases within a specified core group;
- Cases have symptom onset or positive test result within 14 days of each other;
- Cases were not identified as close contacts of each other in another setting (i.e., household) outside of the school setting;
- Cases were epidemiologically linked in the school setting or a school-sanctioned extracurricular activity.
Examples of core groups are extracurricular activities, cohort groups, classrooms, and before or after school care programs.
Guidelines for returning to school or child care have been revised to align with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance.
After a positive COVID-19 test, a child or staff member must isolate at home for a minimum of five days regardless of their vaccination status. If they are without symptoms after that time, or if symptoms have improved and they have been fever-free without the use of fever-reducing medications, they can return to school or child care.
When counting isolation days, Day 0 is the day of the positive test result.
Anyone testing positive toward the end of the five-day isolation period must isolate for 10 days.
The DOH guidelines also include recommendations for reducing the spread of the disease in schools and childcare facilities, and additional recommendations specific to childcare settings.