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California Department of Public Health Issues COVID-19 Guidance and FAQs to K-12 Schools
On September 22, 2021, the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) issued updated COVID-19 K-12 Guidance to provide new recommendations for the timing of unvaccinated students to exit modified quarantines after close-contact exposure at the supervised school setting, and includes pooled PCR testing as an option during quarantine. The CDPH also issued updated FAQs on September 22, 2021.
A. Requirements to Exit Modified Quarantine
When both parties were wearing a mask in any school setting in which students are supervised by school staff (including indoor or outdoor school settings and school buses, including on buses operated by public and private school systems), unvaccinated students who are close contacts (more than 15 minutes over a 24-hour period within 0-6 feet) may undergo a modified quarantine as follows. They may continue to attend school for in-person instruction if they:
i. Are asymptomatic;
ii.Continue to appropriately mask, as required;
iii. Undergo at least twice weekly testing during quarantine period (CDPH advises that the testing begin immediately after exposure to someone with COVID-19, with subsequent testing at least 3 days apart); and
iv. Continue to quarantine for all extracurricular activities at school, including sports, and activities within the community setting.
CDPH updated its guidance on September 22, 2021, to allow the modified quarantine to end on Day 7 (instead of Day 10) after the date of last exposure, if a diagnostic specimen (i.e. antigen diagnostic test, PCR/molecular diagnostic test, or pooled PCR/molecular test) is collected after Day 5 from the date of last exposure, and the test is negative. Students on a modified quarantine may also return to extracurricular activities on Day 8 instead of 10, as previously required.
During a modified quarantine, students should continue daily self-monitoring of symptoms, and follow all recommended non-pharmaceutical interventions (e.g. wearing a mask when around others, hand washing, avoiding crowds) through Day 14 from date of last known exposure.
It is important to note that the modified quarantine is not applicable to any employees, or to those students that have close contact exposure to individuals with COVID-19 outside of the supervised school setting.
B. Pooled PCR Testing
The updated CDPH guidance and FAQs provide that if a person is asymptomatic during quarantine, an FDA-approved test is acceptable for evaluation of an individual’s COVID-19 status, which includes antigen diagnostic tests, PCR diagnostic tests, and pooled PCR tests. Diagnostic PCR tests are preferred, but not required. For more information about test types, see the CDPH school testing resources. The CDPH advises that at-home testing is not recommended for evaluation of an individual’s status during quarantine.
C. Updated FAQs
On September 22, 2021, the CDPH revised FAQs 3, 10, and 11, and added FAQs 12-16 and 18-19. The updated FAQs include clarification that any person seeking a mask exemption provide documentation by a physician (M.D. or D.O.), nurse practitioner (N.P.), or physician assistant (P.A.) supporting the exemption.
The FAQs also clarify that if a student tested positive for COVID-19 before their new, recent exposure and it has been less than three (3) months since they started having symptoms from that previous infection (or since their first positive COVID-19 test if asymptomatic), they do not need to quarantine, as long as they have not had any new symptoms since their recent exposure to someone with COVID-19.
The updated FAQs also provide recommendations to mitigate sports-related transmission of COVID-19 and emphasize that temporary school closures should be considered only after conferring with local health officials.
Liebert Cassidy Whitmore attorneys are available to answer any questions about the updated CDPH K-12 guidance and FAQs.
This Special Bulletin is published for the benefit of the clients of Liebert Cassidy Whitmore. The information in this Special Bulletin should not be acted upon without professional advice.