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Five COVID-19 Related Issues to Consider as Schools Return from Winter Break
As schools begin 2022, here are five COVID-19 related issues they should consider:
- Travel Quarantines
The CDC currently recommends a seven-day quarantine for those who are unvaccinated after international and domestic travel. No quarantine period applies to those who are fully vaccinated. California follows the federal guidance though some counties may have stricter standards. If schools want to impose more stringent travel quarantines on employees or students, having clear policies, and language in employment or enrollment agreements, will be key.
- COVID-19 Testing
Schools may require that employees and students provide a negative COVID-19 test before returning to campus. California currently recommends testing for COVID-19, regardless of vaccination status, three-five days after gathering for the holidays or holiday travel. If COVID-19 testing is required for employees to resume instruction, schools will need to pay for the testing if there is a cost. Testing is available free statewide and schools may require employees to use the free testing sites. Schools that require non-exempt employees to be tested will need to pay for all time spent obtaining the test. Existing COVID-19 policies and terms of enrollment will determine whether students may be required to provide a negative COVID-19 test prior to returning to campus.
- Return to Remote Instruction
Some schools may be considering returning to remote instruction temporarily during the current COVID-19 surge. If your school is considering moving to remote instruction, it is important to confirm the enrollment agreement or student handbook does not promise in-person education. Most schools have language that specifically references remote instruction.
- Requiring Vaccines
Schools may require COVID-19 vaccines for employees, subject to medical and religious accommodations. Many schools also require vaccines for students, with the same accommodations, though religious schools may have more leeway to deny religious accommodations. Schools should carefully review language in their enrollment agreement and policies regarding vaccinations specifically and infectious diseases more generally. While workers’ compensation should cover potential claims by employees, schools should consult with their insurance brokers before mandating student vaccinations.
- Requiring Booster Shots
Absent federal or state guidance, or a revised definition of “fully vaccinated,” there is some risk in schools requiring employees to receive a booster shot. For eligible students – currently 16 and older –schools will need to consider whether it is permitted under the terms of their enrollment agreements or student handbook policies.
Liebert Cassidy Whitmore attorneys are available to assist schools that have any questions about this guidance and any other issues related to COVID-19 and the return from winter break.