On November 24, the New York State Health Department released updated guidance pertaining to test to stay (TTS), testing out of quarantine, and masking breaks. They also released a Return to School Algorithm. The following is a brief summary of the key elements of the new guidance:
The guidance reiterates that the sole authority for making decisions regarding test to stay and testing out of quarantine rests with the local health departments (LHDs). Decisions on these issues must be made on a county-wide basis. Individual school districts may not make such decisions, even though there may be sufficient resources to provide the testing necessary to use these strategies.
If a LHD permits test to stay, schools must:
– ensure equity – families should not have to pay for testing,
– maintain contact tracing,
– ensure that daily tests are conducted and that the results are received before the school day begins,
– ensure that testing done in unmonitored settings (homes) is done correctly and administered to the correct person, and
– ensure that the person who is allowed to TTS is quarantined outside of school instruction.
– Return to School Algorithm – NYSDOH is now permitting persons who are fully vaccinated or who have had the COVID-19 infection within the last 90 days to return to school following a negative antigen test result.
– A person may shorten the quarantine period after seven days if diagnostic test results are negative and symptoms are not reported.
– Teachers and staff who were diagnosed with, and have recovered from, COVID-19 within the last 3 months no longer need to have weekly testing.
– Asymptomatic persons who were exposed to COVID-19 and have recovered, do not need to retest and quarantine within 3 months after the date of the last symptom, or date of the first positive diagnostic test. Schools will be required to track when the 3 months are over and when staff need to resume testing.
– Masking breaks are not included in the emergency regulations.
– Persons who are fully vaccinated do not need to quarantine after contact with someone who is suspected or confirmed to have COVID-19, unless they present symptoms.
The close contact exception for students does not extend to teachers or staff.