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IDPH Updates FAQ and Exclusion Guidance for COVID-19 Cases in Schools

Coronavirus K-12 Education

The Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) updated its COVID-19 FAQ and Exclusion Guidance last week. As we previously reported, the IDPH released Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) for schools in August to supplement but not replace ISBE’s Part 3 Joint Transition Guidance. The IDPH has also updated its COVID-19 Interim Exclusion Guidance and Decision Tree for Symptomatic Individuals in Pre-K, K-12 Schools and Day Care Programs.  The following is an overview of the updates and recommendations for school leaders based on the new guidance.

The following topics were addressed in the updated FAQ on September 9, 2020:

  • Persons who are asymptomatic during the 14 day quarantine period do not need a note from a healthcare provider to return to school.  Per the updated Exclusion Guidance, however, they do need some form of “release” from the local health department. Continue reading for more information.
  • Contacts of a person who is a close contact to a COVID-19 case do not need to quarantine. Continue reading for more information.
  • For when students are napping, face coverings can be removed with the following guidelines:
    • close staff monitoring,
    • space nap spaces 6 feet apart,
    • label and store bedding separately,
    • and provide good ventilation where possible.
  • Medical contraindication to wearing a face covering must be documented by a healthcare provider.
  • Medical notes should be provided by licensed healthcare providers.
  • Clear face coverings (that cover the nose and wrap around the face) can be utilized by certain individuals when cloth face coverings are not feasible.
  • IDPH advises that anyone who has traveled where COVID-19 transmission is high or increasing in the past 14 calendar days should stay home and monitor their health. The FAQ provides links to the CDC’s updated COVID-19 Travel Recommendations by Destination for international and domestic travel.

IDPH also updated its Exclusion Guidance on September 10, 2020. We summarize below the key updates and provide recommendations from our Franczek team for each issue:

Update: Symptoms require exclusion only when they are “new” and “not attributed to allergies or a pre-existing condition.” Additionally, exclusion for symptoms of abdominal pain or fatigue is only required when the symptom is from an unknown cause.

Recommendation: We recommend reviewing and potentially modifying your self-certification forms to address this change.

Update: “Release from Isolation/Quarantine” letter from the local health departments is not required to return to school – other forms of communication including phone, email, and fax are acceptable or any other process implemented by the local health department.

Recommendation: We recommend contacting your local health department to confirm the process they intend to implement.

Clarification:  Symptomatic individuals in close contact with a positive case or who have been directed to quarantine by the health department, must stay home for 14 days even if they have a negative COVID-19 test result or an alternative diagnosis from a healthcare provider.

Recommendation: We recommend modifying your exclusion protocols to address this clarification. If you have purchased Franczek’s protocols, look for our update shortly.

Clarification:  Contacts of a close contact of someone with COVID-19 do not need to quarantine unless the close contact becomes positive. In other words, if Dana is in close contact with Tom and Tom tests positive, Dana must quarantine. If Nicki was in close contact with Dana, however, Nicki does not need to quarantine unless Dana tests positive or Nicki becomes symptomatic.   

Recommendation: Steer clear of Tom and continue working closely with your local health department to assist with identifying close contacts of positive cases.