NCDHHS updates school COVID safety guidance to help keep students in classroom

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RALEIGH, NC (WWAY) – State health officials have updated school safety recommendations in the wake of a surge of COVID-19 cases.

The Department of Health and Human Services released its updated “Strong Schools NC Public Health Toolkit” on Friday which in part urges schools to promote vaccination and boosters for students and staff.

It includes an update to its “Test-to-Stay” strategy, which only applies to K-12 school settings that require masks.

Under that strategy, the person who was exposed to COVID-19 should:

  • Get tested the day they are notified of an exposure.
  • Get tested again five days after the exposure (or as close to five days as possible).
  • Wear a mask for 10 days after the exposure.
  • Except for attending school, stay home and avoid others.

“Protecting our students and staff requires layers of protection to stop the spread of COVID-19,” said State Health Director and NCDHHS Chief Medical Officer Elizabeth Cuervo Tilson, M.D. “In addition to vaccines and masks, Test-to-Stay is another proven tool that can help minimize the spread of COVID-19 while also maximizing time in the classroom.”

NCDHHS said a K-12 student or staff member who has been in close contact with someone confirmed to have COVID-19 and has not themselves developed symptoms or tested positive can still attend school if:

  • The person exposed has had their COVID-19 vaccinations. For adults, this includes boosters.
  • The person exposed has had a confirmed case of COVID-19 within the last 90 days.
  • The person exposed and the person with a confirmed case of COVID-19 were both properly wearing masks when the exposure occurred.

“Research and lived experience in this pandemic have shown it is essential we do everything we can to safely keep our students in the classroom,” said NCDHHS Chief Deputy Secretary Susan Gale Perry. “In-person learning is more than academics, it’s also children interacting with their peers, getting healthy meals and accessing critical support services.”

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