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CDPH Releases Guidance For K-12 Schools For 2021-2022 School Year
On July 9, 2021, the Centers for Disease and Control and Prevention (CDC) updated its Guidance for COVID-19 Prevention in Kindergarten (K)-12 Schools in anticipation of the return of students to campus in fall 2021. Thereafter, the California Department of Public Health published COVID-19 Public Health Guidance for K-12 Schools in California, 2021-22 School Year on July 12, 2021, which “applies the CDC’s recommendations to the California context, in order to help K-12 schools formulate and implement plans for safe, successful, and full in-person instruction in the 2021-2022 school year.” The CDPH guidance is effective immediately.
The CDPH K-12 guidance emphasizes the importance of the COVID-19 vaccination for all eligible individuals, the wearing of face coverings in schools, and a COVID-19 testing program to promote in-person instruction at the outset of the school year and to minimize missed school days throughout the school year at K-12 schools. The CDPH K-12 guidance includes the following key takeaways:
Multi-Layered Prevention Strategy: K-12 schools should implement a multi-layered COVID-19 prevention strategy in consultation with state and local public health entities that considers: 1) level of community transmission of COVID-19; 2) COVID-19 vaccination coverage in the community and among students, faculty, and staff; and 3) any local COVID-19 outbreaks or increasing trends.
Face Coverings: K-12 students are required to wear face coverings indoors, unless a limited exception applies as set forth in the CDPH face mask guidance or the CDPH K-12 guidance. Adults in K-12 school settings are required to wear face coverings when sharing indoor spaces with students. Face coverings are optional outdoors for all in K-12 school settings. The CDPH will determine no later than November 1, 2021, whether to update this face covering requirement.
Physical Distancing: There is no minimum physical distancing requirements when other mitigation strategies, such as face coverings, are implemented.
Ventilation: K-12 schools should optimize ventilation in indoor spaces consistent with the CDPH Guidance on Ventilation of Indoor Environments and Ventilation and Filtration to Reduce Long-Range Airborne Transmission of COVID-19 and Other Respiratory Infections: Considerations for Reopened Schools.
COVID-19 Vaccination: The COVID-19 vaccination is strongly recommended for all eligible people in California, including teachers, staff, students, and adults sharing homes with members of K-12 schools. K-12 schools should refer to CDC vaccine verification recommendations for guidance on vaccination verification considerations.
Staying Home When Sick & Getting Tested: K-12 schools must advise staff members and students with symptoms of COVID-19 infection to stay home, to get tested for COVID-19, and not to return to campus until they have met CDPH criteria to return to school.
Screening Testing: The CDPH K-12 guidance provides a number of resources for K-12 schools interested in COVID-19 screening testing, including the COVID-19 Testing Task Force and the CDC testing guidance for K-12 schools.
Case Reporting, Contract Tracing, & Investigation: K-12 schools must continue to comply with AB 86 COVID-19 reporting requirements. For more information, see the March 8, 2021, LCW Special Bulletin – Governor Signs COVID-19 Reporting and Safety Plan Legislation for Schools.
Quarantine & Isolation: K-12 schools must follow applicable CDPH quarantine and isolation requirements.
Hand Hygiene: K-12 schools should teach, reinforce, and promote hand washing and covering coughs and sneezes. K-12 schools should also provide adequate supplies to support healthy hygiene behaviors.
Cleaning: K-12 schools should clean and disinfect regularly – generally, once a day. Disinfectants should be from the S. Environmental Protection Agency COVID-19 list and K-12 schools may reference the CDC Cleaning and Disinfecting Your Facility guidance for additional information.
Food Service: K-12 schools should maximize physical distance as much as possible while eating (especially indoors) and arrange for eating outdoors as much as feasible.
Cal/OSHA COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standards (ETS): K-12 schools should consult the Cal/OSHA ETS for additional applicable regulations. For more information about the Cal/OSHA ETS, see the June 18, 2021, LCW Special Bulletin – Newly Adopted Cal/OSHA COVID-19 Regulations and their Impact on Private Schools.
Disabilities or Other Health Care Needs: K-12 schools must continue to comply with their legal obligations to reasonably accommodate employees and students with disabilities.
Visitors: K-12 schools should limit nonessential visitors, volunteers, and activities involving external groups or organizations with people who are not fully vaccinated, particularly in areas where there is moderate-to-high COVID-19 community transmission.
Boarding Schools: Boarding schools may operate residential components pursuant to the CDPH K-12 guidance that covers vaccination, screening testing, and cohorting.
Additionally, the CDPH K-12 guidance indicates that guidance applicable to other supervised settings for K-12 school-aged children and youth (e.g., band, drama, etc.) is forthcoming. Further, childcare settings and providers remain subject to the separate guidance from the CDPH and the California Department of Social Services (CDSS) – Guidance for Child Care Providers and Programs – which was issued on June 29, 2021.
The CDC guidance, which K-12 schools may use to supplement – not replace – the CDPH K-12 guidance and any other applicable laws, rules, regulations, mandates, or orders from California or local public health departments, contains some additional key takeaways that K-12 schools in California may want to consider:
- Maintain at least 3 feet of physical distance between students within classrooms, and when that is not possible, such as when schools cannot fully re-open while maintaining these distances, to layer multiple other prevention strategies, such as indoor masking.
- Promote vaccination, consistent and correct mask use, physical distancing, screening testing, ventilation, handwashing and respiratory etiquette, staying home when sick and getting tested, contact tracing in combination with quarantine and isolation, and cleaning and disinfection as important layers of prevention to keep schools safe.
- Implement multiple layers of prevention strategies together consistently to protect people who are not fully vaccinated, such as students (especially those under the age of 12 who are not eligible for vaccination at this time), teachers, staff, and other members of their households.
- For school-sponsored sports and extracurricular activities, it is recommended that coaches and school sports administrators consider specific sport-related risks for people who are not fully vaccinated, such as the setting of the sporting event of activity (g., indoors or outdoors and the location of benches/team areas, locker rooms, spectator viewing areas, spectator facilities/restrooms, etc.); level of physical closeness likely to occur during the sport; number of athletes, spectators, teachers, and staff involved; level of intensity of the activity; duration of the time spent before, during, and after the activity, including travel time; and the presence of people more likely to develop severe illness who may need extra precautions.
- Conduct a workplace hazard assessment consistent with guidance from the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and similar state entities, such as Cal/OSHA in California.
- Have an Emergency Operations Plan (EOP) in place to protect students, teachers, staff, and families from the spread of COVID-19 and other emergencies, which is consistent with state and local requirements. An EOP includes elements such as the COVID-19 prevention strategies to implemented; the steps to take when a student, teacher, or staff member has been exposed to someone with COVID-19, has symptoms of COVID-19, or tests positive for COVID-19; the policy or protocol differences for people who are fully vaccinated for COVID-19 versus those who are not fully vaccinated.
- Documentation of students’ and employees’ COVID-19 vaccination status should be used consistent with applicable laws and regulations, including those related to privacy, to inform masking and physical distancing practices, testing, contact tracing efforts, and quarantine and isolation practices since the recommended prevention strategies may differ based on COVID-19 vaccination status. The CDC further recommends that submitted documentation of COVID-19 vaccination status be collected, secured, used, and disclosed in a manner consistent with applicable state and federal law and regulation and the school’s standard protocols for collecting and securing student and employee health information.
- Implement screening testing to identify COVID-19 infections early and sets forth guidance for conducting such screening testing.
Private K-12 schools with questions about the recent guidance for K-12 schools from the CDC or CDPH are encouraged to contact an LCW attorney.
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.