With new CDC guidelines that address the need to keep students in classrooms while protecting residents from COVID-19, the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) and Board of Education of the State of Illinois (ISBE) adopt new operational tips for CDC schools and early education which eases some restrictions while maintaining a core set of infectious disease prevention strategies as part of their normal operations.
The new guidelines remove the quarantine requirement and relax physical distancing rules.
Schools are still encouraged to follow new CDC operational guidelines on best practices for all infectious diseases and to keep students home if they are sick, and to use testing to confirm or rule out COVID-19 and other infections. Schools must also continue to provide remote learning to any student in isolation for COVID-19 based on the State Superintendent’s Remote Learning Statement.
“Current pandemic conditions are very different from those of the past two years, with many tools available to protect the general public, including the widespread availability of vaccines for anyone 6 months and older,” said the director of IDPH, Sameer Vohra. “We have always prioritized hospital capacity, and hospitals are not facing the kind of strain we have seen in previous waves of COVID-19.
“Vaccination continues to be the most powerful tool in our toolbox to contain the virus and protect people from the most serious consequences. It’s never too late to keep up to date. »
“These updated CDC guidelines recognize the importance of in-person learning in enabling schools to more effectively adapt to changes within their own communities,” said the state Superintendent of Education, Carmen Ayala. “Admins can have more flexibility to be able to make the necessary adjustments they need to keep in-person learning consistent.”
The new CDC guidance notes that although COVID-19 continues to circulate, the risk of severe disease has been reduced due to high levels of vaccination and infection-induced immunity, as well as the widespread availability of effective treatments and prevention tools.
The current situation allows the CDC to minimize public health interventions and reduce barriers to social and educational activities. However, it remains extremely important for people at risk of serious health problems to be aware of their risk and to take steps to fully protect themselves with vaccines, boosters and other protective measures.
The new CDC guidelines build on the framework to monitor the community level of COVID-19 published in February which examines data on hospitalizations, hospital capacity and cases. The approach aims to minimize serious illness, limit the strain on the healthcare system, and enable those most at risk to protect themselves against infection and serious illness.
CDC’s updated guidelines for schools continue to recommend strategies for daily operations that prevent the spread of COVID-19 and other infectious diseases. The following strategies should be in place at all community levels:
- Promote staying up to date with all routine vaccinations.
- Implement policies that encourage students and staff to stay home when sick.
- Optimize ventilation systems.
- Reinforce hand hygiene and respiratory etiquette.
- Use appropriate cleaning and disinfection procedures.
CDC school boards continue to recommend universal masking when community levels are high and testing for high-risk activities (e.g., close-contact sports or band) or during key times of the year (for example, the ball or the return from breaks).
Community-level surveillance can help schools and local health departments, as well as individuals, make decisions based on their local context and unique needs.
Schools, with the help of local health departments, should consider the local context when selecting which strategies to prioritize for implementation. Schools must balance the risk of COVID-19 with educational, social and mental health outcomes when deciding what prevention strategies to put in place.
For more information on the CDC’s new guidelines for K-12 schools and early childhood education, click here.