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IDPH Updates FAQ for Schools

Coronavirus K-12 Education

As the understanding of COVID-19 grows, the guidance from public health authorities continues to develop. After issuing various updates to its guidance for schools over the past weeks, IDPH has now revised its FAQ for Schools with substantial additions and clarifications. Included among the changes is an updated definition of “close contact” that closely tracks the language of the CDC’s updated definition. A summary of this and other updates is set forth below.

Quarantine and Isolation

  • Clarifies that individuals who have been cleared by the local health department for release from isolation may return to school even if other household members are in isolation or quarantine at home.
  • Explains that household contacts of a student who is a confirmed or probable case must quarantine for 14 calendar days (even though an individual with COVID-19 only isolates for 10 days unless otherwise directed by the local health department).
  • Provides expanded guidance for individuals diagnosed by viral testing with COVID-19 within the last 3 months: a repeat COVID-19 test is not recommended (unless otherwise directed by the individual’s health care provider), the individual is not required to quarantine if named as a close contact to a known case of COVID-19, and if the individual has symptoms, they should follow Column C in the Exclusion Guidance Decision Tree (symptomatic individual with an alternative diagnosis).
  • However, if an individual was identified as a probable case based on symptoms, exposure to a confirmed case, and later positive antibody testing (without any COVID-19 testing), that individual must still quarantine if named as a close contact to a new COVID-19 case.

Close Contacts

  • Defines close contact as anyone who was within 6 feet of a confirmed COVID-19 case (with or without a face covering) for a cumulative total of 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period during the infectious period.
  • Clarifies that after a close contact quarantines for 14 days, they do not need a healthcare provider’s note to return to school but do need a Release from Quarantine letter from the local health department or notification via phone, secure email, or fax, or other process implemented by the local health department.

Face Coverings and PPE

  • Updates the guidance for individuals playing musical instruments and singing, advising that they wear washable or disposable, multi-layer face coverings and that those who play wind instruments may use face coverings with a slit. Face coverings may only be removed while outdoors when social distance is maintained. Singers and instrumentalists should be spaced 6 feet apart, and 9 feet front to back for trombones. Additional Music Guidance is referenced.
  • Provides specificity related to face coverings, advising that coverings have two or more layers, be worn over the nose and mouth, be secured under the chin, and fit snuggly against the sides of the face. The FAQ advises against masks with exhalation valves or vents.
  • Advises that if a fit-tested N95 respirator is not available for a staff member who is involved in the assessment of an individual with COVID-like symptoms, the next safest levels of protection include a non-fit-tested N95 respirator, a KN95 respirator on the FDA-approved list, or a surgical mask.
  • Explains that if a staff member was appropriately wearing full PPE as recommended (fit-tested N95 respirator, eye protection with face shield or goggles, gown, and gloves) while in the same room as an individual later determined to be a probable or confirmed COVID-19 case, that staff member is not required to quarantine.

School Closure

Space Heaters

  • Opines that the use of most space heaters would not be expected to increase the risk of COVID-19 transmission, but that fan-forced heaters could present an issue.
  • Recommends that schools consult with their building engineer regarding the use of fan-forced heaters, floor fans, and ceiling fans.

We will continue to monitor the guidance and updates to keep you informed.  Please reach out to your Franczek attorney with any questions.