With school starting back in just a few weeks, the Washington State Department of Health (DOH) has updated its COVID-19 guidance for K-12 schools and for child care.
“We are entering a new stage of co-existing with COVID-19 in our communities, knowing that COVID-19 is here to stay for the foreseeable future,” said Washington’s 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.”
The guidance for the 2022-2023 school year “takes lessons learned from the first two and a half years of the pandemic” that will help reduce COVID transmissions at schools and care facilities.
Some of the outlines are required and some measures are recommended, though the DOH said in the announcement that schools, child care providers and families should expect “limited changes” since the guidance is focused on clarification and simplification.
The first requirement is all students, children and staff who test positive for COVID must stay home and isolate for five days, with repeating initial COVID tests having no effect on this requirement.
Second, all students, children and staff returning to schools and child care facilities from isolation should wear “well-fitted masks” from days six through 10. While not a requirement, those who wish to exit their five-day isolation are encouraged to take a COVID test beforehand.
Third, schools and child care providers are no longer required to directly notify high-risk individuals of exposure to COVID. However, they must continue informing students, staff and families of outbreaks and new cases.
Fourth, school and child care providers are still required to report outbreaks of three or more cases in a “specified core group” to local health jurisdictions.
The DOH also emphasized that the guidance will not only help revent the spread of COVID but it will also reduce other illnesses like influenza.
“Schools, child care providers, and the LHJ 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,” said the DOH release on the updated guidance.
These updated requirements and recommendations coincide with older requirements like all employees, volunteers and indoor contractors at school settings being fully vaccinated, except for those with a medical or religious exemption.
Other requirements and recommendations that are still in place can be found at doh.wa.gov or the “Requirements and Guidance to Mitigate COVID-19 Transmission in K-12 Schools and Child Care” pdf.