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Mass education leaders finalize updates for local schools as CDC relaxes school guidance on quarantine and test screening

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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released updated COVID-19 guidance for schools on Thursday, easing several prevention strategies schools have used throughout the pandemic to control the spread of the virus.

Previous CDC guidance stated that fully vaccinated students do not need to be quarantined after being exposed to COVID. , it is not recommended to isolate after contracting the virus, unless the infection occurs in a so-called “high-risk” environment.

“School or [early care and education] In settings that are not generally considered high-risk population settings, people exposed to COVID-19 should follow recommendations to wear appropriate masks and be tested,” the guidance said. . “The K-12 school and her ECE administrators can decide how to manage exposure based on local conditions and the benefits of maintaining access to in-person learning.”

The CDC also changed its guidance on “testing to stay,” a program launched last year aimed at keeping young children and staff in classrooms rather than isolating them at home. Quarantine after exposure is recommended. No test required. However, if the school continues to require students to quarantine, they can do so.

Routine COVID screening tests in K-12 schools are also no longer recommended in the updated guidance. But when COVID levels are high in the community, the CDC says schools are participating in high-risk activities, such as close contact sports, before and after big events such as prom, and when they return from school breaks. He said he could consider conducting screening tests on students and staff.

Additionally, the guidance recommends indoor masking, even when COVID is at high levels in the community, and continues to emphasize the importance of school buildings needing improved ventilation.

“This latest guidance from the CDC should give students, parents and educators the confidence they need to return to school this year with joy and optimism,” U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona said in a statement. “COVID continues to evolve, but so does our understanding of what it takes to get back to school science and safely.”

In Massachusetts, the Department of Public Health and the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education are finalizing fall COVID guidance for schools and will release an update early next week, according to a state education department spokeswoman.

State officials and education leaders have already begun relaxing school guidelines and precautions. In February, Governor Charlie Baker lifted the statewide requirement to wear masks in schools, leaving the decision up to local leaders.

Boston Public Schools was one of the last remaining school districts statewide to maintain mask requirements after the state lifted the requirement. The school district withdrew her mandate in June nearing the end of last school year. A study released this week compared Massachusetts schools that maintained the mask requirement earlier this year with schools that did away with it, and found that masks were beneficial in protecting students and staff from her COVID-19 outbreak. New evidence found.

BPS plans to release updated COVID guidance ahead of the next school year, but said it is under review.

Gabrielle Farrell, the district’s chief communications officer, said: “We are still reviewing the newly released CDC guidance with our partners at the Boston Public Health Commission.”

In May, the Department of Early Education and Care, the Department of Public Health and DESE also updated their guidance on isolation and quarantine for children in child care centers and other educational settings. Guidance now says that children exposed to COVID no longer need to be quarantined and can stay. In class or in childcare settings as long as they are asymptomatic.

State School Commissioner Jeffrey Riley sent a memo to superintendents at the end of May saying the state would not be offering self-testing or other COVID testing services to schools starting this fall. If the state wants to run its own program, it recommends focusing only on symptomatic testing, and said districts can purchase tests from statewide contracts.

Adria Watson can be reached at follow her on her twitter @adria watson.