DOH Updates School, Childcare COVID-19 Guidelines

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The Washington Department of Health released updated guidelines for mitigating the spread of COVID-19 in K-12 schools and childcare on Friday, including updates to rules on exposure notifications.

Under the updated guidelines, child care facilities and schools no longer have to directly notify high risk students and staff of exposure, but must have a process in place to inform students, families and staff in the case of an outbreak. Those methods could include weekly newsletters, online dashboards or group notifications.

The updated guidelines also change the definition of an outbreak for child care facilities from two cases to three cases, and require all suspected outbreaks to be reported to local health departments.

So-called “test-to-stay” programs, which allow close contacts of an infected individual who test negative for COVID-19 to continue in-person learning, are no longer recommended. 

Most of the guidelines remain the same as they were last year, said Thaynan Knowlton, Clarkston School District superintendent. Students and staff will notice almost no changes in day-to-day operations.

“We’re just hoping that we can have a normal start of a school year, and a normal middle, and a normal end,” Knowlton said. “Throughout my career, this is the only time where anything this disruptive has happened.”

The updated guidelines clarify that children and staff who show any COVID-19-like symptoms are required to stay home, and should get tested. People who test positive are required to isolate a minimum of five days, counting the first day of symptoms as “day zero.” 

Children under 2 years old are not approved for at-home COVID-19 test kits, and a parent or guardian must obtain testing for their child at a test site or health care provider. 

After returning, children and staff must wear a well-fitting mask on days six through 10, and continue to isolate a full 10 days if they test positive after day five.

This report is made possible by the Lewis-Clark Valley Healthcare Foundation in partnership with Northwest Public Broadcasting, the Lewiston Tribune and the Moscow-Pullman Daily News.