New Regulations on COVID-19 Testing & Interim NYSDOH Guidance
The Public Health and Health Planning Council and the commissioner of health issued new regulations regarding COVID-19 testing in schools.
• The regulations require that all K-12 schools, and some pre-kindergarten programs, report on a daily basis the positive test results reported to the school for students, staff, teaching staff, and any other employees or volunteers. The daily report will be in a format determined by the commissioner of health.
• The regulations may require routine testing in certain settings – schools, nursing homes, correctional facilities, homeless shelters, and health care settings. The commissioner could exempt fully-vaccinated persons from this type of routine testing.
• The regulation allows entities, subject to routine testing, to accept documentation demonstrating full vaccination in lieu of the imposed testing requirements.
Interim NYSDOH Guidance for Classroom Instruction in P-12 Schools During the 2021-22 Academic Year
NYSDOH issued new guidance for the 2021-22 school year. The guidance provides a framework for state-level strategies and is consistent with guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The following is a summary of key components of the guidance:
• All schools should review and adopt all aspects of the CDC Guidance for Schools and Child Care Programs. Ultimately, the decision to adopt certain mitigation measures rests with the local community, unless required in the above guidance.
• All public school districts and non-public schools should support opportunities for staff and students to access vaccinations.
• Masks: All students, personnel, teachers, administrators, contractors, and visitors must wear masks at all times indoors, regardless of vaccination status. Medical exemptions are allowable. Masks must be worn by passengers and drivers on public transportation. Masks are generally not required outdoors.
• Physical Distancing: “Because of the importance of in-person learning, schools should implement physical distancing to the extent possible within their structures…”
A distance of at least 3 feet is strongly recommended. A distance of at least 6 feet is recommended between students and teachers/staff and between teachers/staff not fully vaccinated.
• Sports and Other Extracurricular Activities (page 12): Masks are required for indoor sports, except when they are not able to be worn (swimming). When it is not possible to wear a mask, then 6 feet distance must be adhered to. Schools should consider implementing screening testing of participants who are not fully vaccinated up to 24 hours before the sporting competition or extracurricular activity. See Table 1 in CDC Guidance for COVID-19 Prevention in K-12 Schools.
• Quarantine and Close Contact (CDC Guidance for COVID-19 Prevention in K-12 Schools, page 10)
º Unless fully vaccinated, any close contact must quarantine.
º Vaccinated persons will need to quarantine after contact, only if they present symptoms, however, they should be tested within 3-5 days after exposure. They must wear a mask for 14 days indoors or until they receive a negative test result.
º Close contact is anyone who was within 6 feet of an infected person for 15 minutes or more over a 24 hour period. However, in P-12 indoor classroom settings, students who were within 3-6 feet of an infected student, where both students were wearing a mask, are not considered close contacts.
º School districts must have a plan for continued instruction for students who are in quarantine or who have displayed symptoms and have been excluded from school.
º Local health departments may establish and enforce isolation or quarantine orders with the communities including schools, based on local conditions.
• Individuals Displaying COVID-19 Symptoms – All students, teachers, and staff with new or worsening COVID-19 symptoms must be excluded from school regardless of vaccination status. Schools must establish the capability to conduct or offer screening testing. This may be on-site if the district is registered as a limited service laboratory, or a school can have testing performed off-site, such as a lab, local health department, pharmacy, or health provider. Schools may also conduct pooled testing as another approach.
• Ventilation: A substantial segment is focused on ventilation.