COVID-19 and Schools Frequently Asked Questions
August 12, 2021
*Updates in italics*
1. What guidance and resources are available to schools for the 2021-2022 school year?
Schools will need to follow the updated California Department of Public Health (CDPH) school guidance for the 2021-2022 school year here. Ventura County Public Health (VCPH) is aligning mostly with the CDPH school guidance. Any deviations from the guidance will be listed in this FAQs document. Schools can visit the State of California Safe Schools for All Hub for technical assistance, reporting concerns and the latest news on reopening schools for in-person instruction. Schools can also visit the Ventura County Recovers website for up-to-date information on school guidance.
2. What is the face covering guidance for the 2021-2022 school year?
All students are required to wear face coverings indoors unless exempted per CDPH face mask guidance. Adults in K-12 school settings are required to wear face coverings when sharing indoor spaces with students. Persons who meet the criteria for face covering exemption must wear a non-restrictive alternative, such as a face shield with a drape on the bottom edge, as long as their condition permits it. Face coverings are optional outdoors in all K-12 school settings. Schools must develop and implement protocols to provide face coverings to students who inadvertently fail to bring a face covering to school. Schools should offer alternative educational opportunities for those students who refuse to wear face coverings while in indoor school settings. Schools must develop and implement local protocols to enforce the face covering requirements.
3. What is the physical distancing guidance for the 2021-2022 school year?
Per updated CDPH guidance, recent evidence indicates that in-person instruction can occur safely without minimum physical distancing requirements when other mitigation strategies (e.g., face covering) are implemented. This is consistent with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) K-12 School Guidance.
4. Are schools required to do daily symptom screening for the 2021-2022 school year?
VCPH strongly encourages schools to continue with active and passive COVID-19 symptom screening. Students and staff should follow the strategy from the CDC for Staying Home when Sick and Getting Tested. Students and staff who have symptoms of infectious illness should stay home and be referred to their healthcare provider for testing and care. Staff and students with symptoms of COVID-19 infection should be advised to not return for in-person instruction until they have met the VCPH criteria to return to school.
5. What is considered a “fever?”
While CDPH uses 100.5°F as the threshold for a fever, VCPH will continue to use 99.5°F as a threshold for fever.
- Are schools required to report cases of COVID-19 to the local health department? Yes, per AB 86 (2021) and California Code Title 17, Section 2500, schools are required to report COVID-19 cases to the local public health department. VCPH will continue to utilize Shared Portal for Outbreak Tracking (SPOT) for reporting cases. This can be done by emailing email@example.com with the following information:
- Date of COVID-19 Exposure
- Name of the School
- Identify a Positive Case or Close Contact
For schools that have not reported through SPOT, the VCPH COVID-19 School Team will assist school liaisons in creating a SPOT account. For any questions on COVID-19 reporting or SPOT, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
7. What is the current quarantine guidance for unvaccinated students in which the positive case AND the close contact were wearing face coverings in an indoor or outdoor school setting?
If a close contact exposure (more than 15 minutes over a 24-hour period within 0-6 feet indoors) occurs with an unvaccinated student and both the positive case and the contact were wearing face coverings in an indoor or outdoor school setting, the close contact may continue to attend in-person instruction if they:
- Are asymptomatic;
- Continue to wear a face covering as required; AND
- Undergo at least twice weekly testing during the 10-day quarantine.
This modified quarantine is only for attending in-person classroom sessions. Students who are under this modified quarantine cannot attend any extracurricular activities (e.g., school related sports, conditioning, band practice).
8. What are the quarantine recommendations for unvaccinated close contact students who were not wearing face coverings OR when the positive case was not wearing a face covering during the indoor or outdoor school exposure?
- 14-day quarantine: This remains the safest and preferred option. CDC still recommends a quarantine period of 14 days based on the upper bound estimates of COVID-19 incubation period. If any symptoms develop in the next 14 days from the last exposure, the exposed person must immediately isolate, get tested and contact their healthcare provider with any questions regarding their care.
- 10-day quarantine: If the close contact, who at the time of COVID-19 exposure did not have a face covering, will need to quarantine for 10 days from the last date of exposure. Presence of a negative COVID-19 test does not shorten the 10-day quarantine.
VCPH will not be aligning with the 7-day quarantine with test after Day 5 option as stated in the CDPH guidance.
9. If a student has an exposure off school campus, would they qualify for the modified quarantine?
No, they would need to follow the 10 or 14 day at home quarantine options. Students only qualify for the modified quarantine if the exposure happened on school campus and masks were worn during the exposure by both the positive case and contact.
10. What guidance should staff follow for a close contact exposure?
Staff should follow Cal/OSHA guidance for close contact exposures found here. Current Cal/OSHA guidance requires a 10-day quarantine for unvaccinated close contacts. Fully vaccinated employees are not required to complete a quarantine unless they are symptomatic.
11. When is an individual considered fully vaccinated?
An individual is considered fully vaccinated:
- 2 weeks after their second dose in a 2-dose series, such as the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, OR
- 2 weeks after a single-dose vaccine, such as Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen vaccine
12. How should schools verify vaccination status of staff and students?
Refer to the CDC vaccine verification recommendations to implement vaccination status, as well as other prevention strategies (e.g. testing, contact tracing efforts, and quarantine and isolation practices).
- What is the process for fully vaccinated close contacts and reporting to VCPH? Asymptomatic fully vaccinated contacts do not need to quarantine. The fully vaccinated close contacts will need to be reported to VCPH by the school liaison. The school liaison will document and report close contact’s vaccination status in SPOT. Fully vaccinated individuals should follow the CDPH fully vaccinated quarantine guidance found here.
14. What are the current isolation requirements for COVID-19?
Persons diagnosed with COVID-19 need to follow CDPH isolation guidance regardless of their vaccination status.
15. What are the new testing requirements and what are the resources available to schools for testing?
Any school currently open is subject to the minimum testing requirement standards established by Cal/OSHA. Screening testing can be used at a cadence of every 2 weeks or less frequently, to understand whether the settings have higher or lower rates of COVID-19 rates than the community, to guide decisions about safety, and to inform local health departments. Schools are strongly encouraged to implement screening testing.
The updated CDPH testing guidance can be found here. CDPH has provided resources and additional information on testing through the COVID-19 Testing Task Force. The CDPH K-12 Testing Program is available to any public, private and charter K-12 schools in California and will be free for schools. Schools can email email@example.com to receive support and information on the various testing strategies available to schools, help in determining which testing will be best for the school, and to enroll in a testing program.
16. What is the process for schools to follow if a student or staff member has a positive in-home test?
A positive in-home test should be followed up by a PCR COVID-19 test for confirmation. If the individual was symptomatic or had a known close contact exposure within the past 14 days then the individual should complete a 10 day isolation no matter the result of the PCR test. If the individual was asymptomatic with no known exposures, then the individual should isolate until the results of the confirmed PCR test is known.
17. What guidance should schools follow for sports?
The CDPH school hub states individuals in youth sports should continue to wear a mask indoors in public settings. Additional Youth Sports guidance may be provided, pending operational guidance from the CDC. The schools hub links to CDPH face covering guidance and CDPH face covering Q&A. At this time, schools should follow this guidance in regard to youth sports until CDPH provides updated youth sports guidance.