New health guidelines regarding COVID-19 exposure and testing will see fewer students missing class in the new year.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced last week that unvaccinated students exposed to the coronavirus can remain in school, as long as they are tested for the virus twice in the week after and both tests come back negative.
The new guidance, known as the “test-to-stay” protocol, could ease the burden on children who have been expected to stay home if a close contact tested positive for the virus, and on parents who have had to scramble to retrieve them from school or find day care. It also aims to minimize disruptions to learning as the Omicron variant spreads across the country.
The agency released studies from two counties, one in California and the other in Illinois, that effectively tested the protocol and found that it worked.
“Even with the recent increase in Omicron variant, we expect that these prevention strategies will continue to work,” said CDC spokeswoman Kristen Nordlund. “However, as we learn more about the Omicron variant, C.D.C. will continue to review and update guidance as needed.”
On the heels of this announcement, California announced a few days later that it will provide schools with enough at-home COVID-19 tests for every K-12 student.
“As we fight Omicron, there is nothing more important for our kids than keeping schools safely open, that means deploying rapid tests,” State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond said in a statement.
The Turlock Unified School District is still waiting for a shipment of tests to distribute to students and staff, but directed the community to some local locations where they can receive free at-home tests. Those locations can be found at schsa.org/coronavirus/testing/.
The CDC also revised the isolation guideline for anyone who contracted COVID-19. The previous recommendation was isolating for 10 days; people now with COVID-19 should isolate for five days and if they are asymptomatic or their symptoms are resolving (without fever for 24 hours), follow that by five days of wearing a mask when around others to minimize the risk of infecting people they encounter.
“The Omicron variant is spreading quickly and has the potential to impact all facets of our society,” said CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky. “CDC’s updated recommendations for isolation and quarantine balance what we know about the spread of the virus and the protection provided by vaccination and booster doses. These updates ensure people can safely continue their daily lives. Prevention is our best option: get vaccinated, get boosted, wear a mask in public indoor settings in areas of substantial and high community transmission, and take a test before you gather.”
TUSD is aware of the revised federal and local health guidelines and will release more information to the public soon.
“We anticipate information being released from the California Department of Public Health this week with regard to schools,” the district said in a Facebook post. “We will keep you informed of any changes to TUSD’s current isolation and quarantine practices. In the meantime, we will follow our current protocols. As a reminder, please report any COVID-19 exposure or infection to your student’s school on their website.”