The Washington State Department of Health (DOH) has released its updated COVID-19 guidance for K-12 schools and child care. According to a department news release, the guidance takes lessons learned from the first two and a half years of the pandemic, and outlines both required and recommended measures for the 2022-23 school year to help reduce COVID-19 transmission in school and child care settings. Schools, child care providers, and families can expect limited changes focused on clarifying and simplifying the guidance.
“We are entering a new stage of coexisting with COVID-19 in our communities, knowing that COVID-19 is here to stay for the foreseeable future,” said Secretary of Health Dr. Umair A. Shah. “DOH also recognizes the importance of being able to maintain in-person learning for children, and the fundamental links between education and long-term health outcomes.”
Clarified requirements and recommendations in this school year’s guidance include:
- Students, children and staff who test positive for COVID-19 are required to stay at home and isolate for five days. Repeating initial COVID-19 testing will not affect this requirement.
- Students, children and staff returning from five days of isolation should wear a well-fitted mask from days six to 10. Those returning are encouraged to test before doing so.
- Schools and child care providers are no longer required to directly notify high-risk individuals of exposure but must continue to have a process in place to inform students, staff and families of cases and outbreaks.
- Schools and child care providers continue to be required to report outbreaks (three or more cases within a specified core group) to local health jurisdictions and to have a system in place to respond.
The Department of Health said it continues to encourage schools and child care providers to consider their local context when selecting any additional measures to help reduce COVID-19 transmission in schools and child care settings and to coordinate with their local health jurisdictions, particularly during times of outbreak. Schools, child care providers, and the local jurisdictions may choose to continue to implement more protective measures, depending upon their context, to help ensure students, children and staff can continue in-person activities safely.
While the guidance is specific to COVID-19 prevention, it can also help to reduce transmission of other common respiratory viruses such as influenza. DOH has also developed a brief for schools and a brief for child care providers to provide a high-level overview on changes to the guidance.