February 24, 2022

Updated COVID 19 Guidance

Updated COVID 19 Guidance Featured Image

As many school districts change their COVID 19 polices and the impact of the pandemic and the omicron variant continue to be felt in our schools, the health and safety of students, staff, and community members is of the highest importance.

Below is a summary of advice from the Wisconsin Department of Health related to COVID and health and safety in schools, the key takeaways, and links to their most updated guidance.

WEAC has been taking the lead in advocacy around health and safety issues, particularly on masking, vaccinations, testing, isolation and quarantine.  WEAC has also been leading in pressuring Governor Evers and Superintendent Underly to take urgent steps to ease the burden on educators. A summary as well as links and request forms for resources are here /covid-updates-for-wisconsin-educators/

There are three important initiatives to draw to your attention, ask you to share with colleagues, and address within your district.

PPE Masks: As a direct outcome of WEACs urgent lobbying efforts, DHS announced on Friday that districts can request free N95 and KN95 masks from their stockpile for use as PPE for employees. They can be ordered from this DHS website.

Connect with your District Administration and confirm that they have made a request. These masks can make a significant difference to transmission and infection.

Sick Leave: In additional to their calls on Governor Evers and Superintendent Underly for a statewide waiver of instructional hours, a pause the educator effectiveness system, a nurse in every public school in Wisconsin, and to keep the union at the table in discussions about how to deal with COVID, WEAC last week called for a statewide sick leave bank be created to cover time lost to COVID.

Tests: DHS has received federal funding to support school-based COVID-19 testing for teachers, staff, students, and their families for the 2021-2022 school year and Districts can set up tests via this Testing Information site. Confirm with administration what plans your district has to take advantage of these resources.  You can also order free testing kits for use at home via COVIDtests.gov – Free at-home COVID-19 tests or Vault Health – free COVID-19 test kits.

 More Helpful COVID Safety Links

Here is Governor Tony Evers’ January 10, 2022 memo to schools.

Updated CDC guidance for K-12 schools, childcare, and colleges:

Updated Summary for COVID and Schools

  • Students benefit from in-person learning, and safely returning to in-person instruction continues to be a priority.
  • Vaccination is the leading public health prevention strategy to end the COVID-19 pandemic. Promoting vaccination can help schools safely return to in-person learning as well as extracurricular activities and sports.
  • CDC recommends universal indoor masking by students (ages 2 years and older), staff, teachers, and visitors to K-12 schools, regardless of vaccination status.
  • New CDC guidance has reduced the recommended time for isolation and quarantine periods to five days.
  • In addition to universal indoor masking, CDC recommends schools maintain at least 3 feet of physical distance between students within classrooms to reduce transmission risk. When it is not possible to maintain a physical distance of at least 3 feet, such as when schools cannot fully re-open while maintaining these distances, it is especially important to layer multiple prevention strategies, such as screening testing.
  • 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 are also important layers of prevention to keep schools safe.
  • Students, teachers, and staff should stay home when they have signs of any infectious illness and be referred to their healthcare provider for testing and care. This guidance emphasizes implementing layered prevention strategies to protect students, teachers, staff, visitors, and other members of their households and support in-person learning.
  • Localities should monitor community transmission, vaccination coverage, screening testing, and occurrence of outbreaks to guide decisions on the level of layered prevention strategies (e.g., physical distancing, screening testing).