By: Follow South Jersey Staff
SOUTH JERSEY — The New Jersey Department of Health (NJDOH) has released updated guidance for K-12 schools which includes updated school exclusion criteria to reflect CDC’s recent reduction in isolation and quarantine timelines on January 12.
This guidance also includes recommendations for additional measures schools can implement in regions with very-high COVID-19 community transmission, which were shared with schools that were shared with schools a few weeks ago. See Follow South Jersey article here.
NJDOH’s guidance on isolation and quarantine follows the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) guidance. The shortened timeframes for isolation and quarantine focus on the period when a person is most infectious, followed by continued masking for an additional five days.
“We know that students benefit from in-person learning, and safely continuing in-person instruction remains a priority,” Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli said in a press release from NJDOH. “These recommendations will help local health departments and schools in handling COVID-19 cases and exposures among students and staff to ensure healthy outcomes for all.”
Specifically, according to the NJDOH document sent to all school districts by the NJ Department of Education, some of the new updates are as follows:
Everyone 5 years and older who receives their primary series of a COVID-19 vaccine is fully vaccinated. For children 5 through 17 years of age, a primary series consists of 2 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine. For persons 18 and older, a primary series consists of: A 2-dose series of an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine (Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna), or single-dose COVID-19 vaccine (Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen vaccine). The CDC recommends that people remain up to date with their vaccines, which includes additional doses for individuals who are immunocompromised or booster doses at regular time points. Individuals who are moderately or severely immunocompromised should get an additional primary shot and a booster shot.
When the COVID-19 risk level of community transmission is Very High (Red), it is recommended that schools limit participation in extracurricular activities to those students and staff who are up to date with COVID-19 vaccination per Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) recommendations, and conduct COVID-19 screening testing of students and staff, regardless of vaccination status, twice weekly for participation in all extracurricular activities.
Individuals regardless of vaccination status, who test positive or individuals with COVID19 symptoms who have not been tested and do not have an alternative diagnosis from their healthcare provider should stay home for at least 5 full days after the onset of symptoms.
They should also stay home if asymptomatic after the positive test (day of symptoms is day: if asymptomatic, day the test was performed is day 0), and if they have no symptoms or symptoms are resolving after 5 days, they can leave their home and should wear a mask when around others at home and in public (indoors and outdoors) for an additional 5 days. For these additional 5 days, schools should have a plan to ensure adequate distance during those activities (i.e., eating) when mask wearing is not possible. Time without mask being worn should be kept to minimum possible. On days 6-10, limit participation in extracurricular activities to only those activities where masks can be worn consistently and correctly.
Exposed close contacts who have no COVID-19 compatible symptoms in the following groups should be excluded from school:
• Age 18 or older who completed the primary series of a recommended COVID-19 vaccine, but have not received a recommended booster shot when eligible.
• Persons <18 years old who are not fully vaccinated
An exception would be for schools who are using a “Test to Stay” protocol may allow asymptomatic close contacts to return to in-person academic activities immediately so long as the contacts follow the protocol.
For determining the timing of close contact to a COVID-19 case:
• Individuals would only be considered exposed if they had close contact during the case’s isolation period (day 1-5).
• Individuals would NOT be considered exposed during the case’s additional precaution period at day 6-10).
During quarantine, students and staff should follow recommendations and additional precautions outlined in DOH Recommended Isolation and Quarantine Timeframes for Non-Healthcare Settings regarding staying home, travel, and testing.
Exposed close contacts who have no COVID-19 symptoms in the following groups do not need to quarantine or be excluded from school:
• Age 18 or older and have received all recommended vaccine doses, including boosters and additional primary shots for some immunocompromised people.
• Age 5-17 years and completed the primary series of COVID-19 vaccines.
• Had confirmed COVID-19 within the last 90 days (tested positive using a viral test).
• Wear a well-fitting mask around others for 10 days from the date of their last close contact with someone with COVID-19 (the date of last close contact is considered day 0).
• Get tested at least 5 days after having close contact with someone with COVID-19 unless they had confirmed COVID-19 in the last 90 days and subsequently recovered.
• Monitor for fever (100.4◦F or greater), cough, shortness of breath, or other COVID-19 symptoms for 10 days after their last exposure.
• On days 6-10, limit participation in extracurricular activities to only those activities where masks can be worn consistently and correctly.
For the full report from the NJDOH, click here.
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