New Jersey Department of Health Releases Updated COVID-19 Guidelines for Schools

By: Kaitlyn Kudriavetz, Writer / Follow South Jersey Child Welfare Intern

TRENTON, N.J. — The New Jersey Department of Health has released updated COVID-19 guidelines for public school operations as of January 19, including recommendations for classroom attendance procedures and further instructions by risk categories.

Depending on the regional risk level, the NJDOH recommends varying action based on their updated exclusion criteria for students and staff.

Those with positive COVID-19 tests should exclude themselves from in-person activity, regardless of regional risk level. Those who are showing COVID-19 compatible symptoms, but who have not gotten tested, should operate in a remote capacity unless they are in a Low Risk area: those in a low risk, or green, area should exclude themselves if they have had COVID-19 exposure in the last 14 days. If they have not had exposure, the NJDOH recommends they visit the NJDOH exclusion list before deciding whether or not your child returns to school.

Staff or students who are showing COVID-19 symptoms but who have received a negative test result should stay home until 24 hours has passed since their fever ended without medication. In green and yellow areas, people who have had close contact with a student/staff with COVID-19 should be excluded for 10 days, whereas those in the orange areas should be excluded for 14. Schools in very high risk areas are encouraged to operate in a fully-remote capacity.

“Parents/caregivers should be strongly encouraged [by schools] to monitor their children for signs of illness every day as they are the front line for assessing illness in their children,” the NJDOH said.

The NJDOH encourages parents, staff and students to keep an eye out for the following symptoms: fever (measure or subjective), chills, rigors (shivers), muscle aches, headache, sore throat, nausea or vomiting, diarrhea, fatigue, congestion or runny nose. Students showing at least one of the following symptoms should be excluded from school as well: cough, shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, new olfactory disorder, new taste disorder.

“An alternate diagnosis (including a positive strep test or influenza swab) without a negative COVID-19 test is not acceptable for individuals who meet COVID-19 exclusion criteria to return to school,” the NJDOH said.

Domestic and international travel by students or staff should be followed by a 10-day stay at home, with the exception of travel to the surrounding states of New York, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, or Delaware.

The NJDOH refers to the COVID-19 regional risk matrix to inform decisions and supply definitions regarding regional and situational circumstances.

“The reopening of schools requires a broad community commitment to reduce the risk of exposure to the virus that causes COVID-19,” the NJDOH said. “Such commitment involves social distancing, wearing masks, cleaning and disinfection and meticulous hygiene practices such as frequent handwashing.”

This article was produced by a Follow South Jersey news intern thanks to a grant provided by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation through the New Jersey Health Initiatives program to create hyper-local news to meet the informational and health needs of the City of Bridgeton, N.J.