Written by: Samantha A. Vajskop, Esq.
It’s not over until it’s over, but the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (“CDC”) is updating its COVID-19 guidance and lessening restrictions just in time for the start of the 2022-2023 school year. The changing guidance will have a direct impact on schools, which may have been utilizing the “test-to-stay” policies previously recommended by the CDC.
For people who were exposed to COVID-19, the CDC previously recommended that the individual quarantine for certain periods of time. Now, the CDC simply recommends that the exposed individual wear a “high-quality mask” for 10 days and get tested on day 5. This is true regardless of vaccination status. The CDC continues to recommend isolation for those who actually have COVID-19, but not for those who were merely exposed (unless the person is in a high-risk congregate setting, but schools are not considered such settings).
The CDC also is scaling back its broader screening and testing recommendations. The CDC has stated that “screening testing of asymptomatic people without known exposures will no longer be recommended in most community settings.” In other words, broad-scale testing, like the prior “test-to-stay” recommendations for schools, is no longer recommended. The CDC has removed “test-to-stay” information from its school guidance site. However, the CDC noted that this does not prevent schools from utilizing widespread testing during outbreaks or for certain high-risk activities (such as prom or certain sports events).
The CDC still recommends that schools “take a variety of actions every day to prevent the spread of infectious diseases,” including COVID-19. Those actions include promoting equitable access to vaccinations, encouraging people to stay home when sick, and teaching and reinforcing good hygiene and cleaning practices. Social distancing is no longer listed as a specific strategy for schools.
In a press release issued last week, the CDC emphasized that its guidance “acknowledges that the pandemic is not over, but also helps us move to a point where COVID-19 no longer severely disrupts our daily lives.”
Going into the new school year, school districts should review their existing COVID-19-related policies and procedures to ensure they are not overly restrictive, but that they still provide flexibility for their boards to address changing circumstances in their communities. Districts should consult with legal counsel to review and update existing policies on COVID testing and isolation protocols, as needed.