State officials released updated guidelines for New York schools.

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Vaccines:

  • All public school districts and non-public schools should support opportunities for students and staff to access COVID-19 vaccination clinics in collaboration with local health partners as needed

Masks:

  • All students, personnel, teachers, administrators, contractors, and
    visitors must wear masks at all times indoors, regardless of vaccination status.
  • People with medical or developmental conditions that prevent them from wearing
    a mask may be exempted from mask requirements, as documented by a medical
    provider.
  • People do not need to wear masks when eating, drinking, singing, or playing a
    wind instrument; when masks are removed for these purposes, individuals must
    be spaced six feet apart. This may mean that meals cannot be eaten in
    classrooms that have been arranged to accommodate shorter distances between
    students during instruction time. Students should not be excluded from in-person
    learning in order to meet a minimum distance requirement.

Sick/Testing: 

  • All schools must have policies in place that clearly explain what students,
    teachers and personnel with new or worsening symptoms must do. See section on
  • All schools must have the capacity to offer COVID-19 testing to teachers, students, and
    staff

Physical Distancing:

  • Because of the importance of in-person learning, schools should
    implement physical distancing to the extent possible within their structures

    • (a) A distance of at least 3 feet is strongly recommended between all students.
    • (b) A distance of at least 6 feet is recommended between students and teachers/staff, and between teachers/staff who are not fully vaccinated.
    • (c) Universal masking is required according to the Commissioner’s masking
      determination issued pursuant to 10 NYCRR 2.60 for indoor settings. Should there be a time when the determination for universal masking in schools is lifted, masking must occur when physical distance cannot be maintained.
    • (d) Maximize physical distance as much as possible when moving through the food service line and while eating (especially indoors). Using additional spaces outside of the cafeteria for mealtime seating such as the gymnasium or outdoor seating can help facilitate distancing.

Transportation:

  • Masking is required on public transportation
  • Passengers and drivers must wear a mask on school buses, including on buses operated by public and private school systems, regardless of vaccination status, subject to applicable exclusions and exemptions.

Sports:

  • The Commissioner’s determination for masking in schools applies to indoor settings, including for sports and extracurricular activities.
  • For indoor sports and extracurricular activities in which masking is not possible (e.g., swimming), a minimum distance of 6 feet must be maintained
  • To facilitate safe participation in sports, extracurricular activities, and other activities with elevated risk (such as activities that involve singing, shouting, band, and exercise that could lead to increased exhalation), schools should consider implementing and requiring screening testing for participants who are not fully
    vaccinated.
  • Schools can routinely test student-athletes, participants, coaches,
    conductors/directors, trainers, and other people (such as adult volunteers) who are not fully vaccinated and could come into close contact with others during these activities.
  • Schools should consider implementing screening testing of participants who are not fully vaccinated up to 24 hours before sporting, competition, or extracurricular events.
  • Schools can use different screening testing strategies for lower-risk sports.
  • High-risk sports and extracurricular activities should be virtual or canceled in areas of high community transmission unless all participants are fully vaccinated.

Physical Education and Recess:

  • In general, people do not need to wear masks
    when they are outdoors (e.g., participating in outdoor play, recess, and physical
    education activities).
  • The Commissioner’s determination for masking in schools applies to indoor settings, including physical education that takes place in a gymnasium or indoor recess (such as takes place during inclement weather).
  • For indoor physical education activities in which masking is not possible (e.g., swimming), a minimum distance of 6 feet must be maintained

 

Quarantine and close contact:

  • Consistent with CDC guidance, all “close contacts” with someone with COVID must quarantine unless they are fully vaccinated.
  • People who are fully vaccinated do not need to quarantine after contact with someone who is suspected or confirmed to have COVID-19 unless they also present possible symptoms of infection; however, they should be tested 3-5 days after exposure and must wear a mask indoors for 14 days or until they receive a negative diagnostic test result.
  • In general, a “close contact” is anyone who was within 6 feet of an infected
    person for a cumulative total of 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period
  • However, in the P-12 indoor classroom setting, the CDC specifies that students who were within 3 to 6 feet of an infected student where both students were engaged in consistent and correct use of well-fitting masks are not considered close contacts.

Health Screenings

  • Daily health screenings and temperature checks of all students, faculty, staff,
    visitors, and contractors are an additional option schools may use to increase
    protections against transmission of COVID-19.

Return to School for Individuals Displaying Symptoms of COVID-19

  • All school students, teachers, and staff with new or worsening
    symptoms of COVID-19 must be excluded from school, regardless of vaccination
    status, and either (a) provide a negative COVID test result, or (b) remain excluded
    from school for a minimum of 10 calendar days from symptom onset, prior to
    returning to school.
  • If student, teacher, or staff symptoms are improving AND they
    are fever-free for at least 24 hours without the use of fever-reducing medicines, they may return to school with either a note from the healthcare provider indicating the test was negative OR a copy of the negative test result.
  • Given the growing prevalence of breakthrough infections among vaccinated populations nationwide, there is no recommended exemption for symptomatic vaccinated people.

COVID-19 Testing

  • Schools must have the capacity (either directly on-site or via referral) to provide diagnostic testing for any students, teachers, and staff

Ventilation and Filtration in Schools

  • Indoor air quality can be improved by increasing outdoor air delivery to the building (ventilation) and removing particulates/viral particles from the air (air filtration) to the greatest extent possible. Ventilation and filtration together can reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission.
  • Portable air cleaners are a type of filtration device and may supplement other preventive measures to decrease the risk of COVID-19 spread. These are designed to remove particles. However, they are limited in the amount of air they filter per hour and so they may reduce, but may not eliminate, particles, viruses, and/or microbes in the air.
  • The selection, installation, and maintenance of portable filtration devices should be made in consultation with an indoor air quality professional.
  • The use of portable filtration devices does not decrease the need for mask wearing, physical distancing, sanitation practices, or adequate ventilation.
  • Portable air cleaners are particularly relevant for rooms without natural ventilation
    (openable windows) and for higher risk environments (e.g., nurses’ station, isolation rooms) but can be considered for any other areas where there is heightened concern.
  • In addition to reducing risk of COVID-19, improved ventilation can make classrooms more comfortable for students wearing masks.

 

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