August 19, 2022
As many Illinois students head back to classrooms, school districts around the state are relaxing COVID-19 guidance following the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) new recommendations. The changes are being driven by a recognition that an estimated 95% of Americans ages 16 and older have acquired some level of immunity. To better understand the guidelines in most school districts, Mia Taormina, DO, FACOI, FACOI, chair of our Infectious Disease Department, and Donald Hoscheit, MD, FACG, FACG Gastroenterologist and Chief Medical Officer, share insights into the latest COVID guidelines to help parents and caregivers prepare for the new school year.
What are the COVID guidelines?
Dr. Hoscheit: The revised recommendations ease social distancing requirements and no longer encourage Americans to quarantine if they come into close contact with an infected person. Masks are recommended, but no longer required. Completion of a vaccination series remains the singular best approach to reducing the risk of severe outcomes from a COVID infection.
While the recommendations have largely changed in most school districts, it is important to check your child’s school district website for the latest COVID guidelines in your schools.
What about COVID testing?
Dr. Taormina: New testing procedures will be in place for “close contacts” to keep up with the latest guidelines from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. However, daily COVID testing as asymptomatic screening is no longer recommended. Home-based testing (with an approved home-based antigen test) during symptoms does provide a fairly reliable means of monitoring for COVID.
What if a child tests positive for COVID?
Dr. Taormina: Now, any student or staff member who is exposed to COVID-19 will not be required to stay home for five days (in most districts), but they will need to wear a mask in school for 10 days following the exposure. If your child is COVID positive or experiencing symptoms, the recommendation is to isolate for 5 days. The student can return to the classroom on the 6th day after testing positive (the time off is five full days) if fever free for 24 hours and again, must mask through day 10.
What do we know about the spread of COVID in Illinois?
Dr. Hoscheit: COVID-19 is still spreading across Chicago and in some areas (like the City of Chicago) the pace is beginning to show signs of slowing. While the City of Chicago/Cook County’s COVID risk level has returned to the “medium” category, many of the counties where our patients and staff reside (DuPage, Kendall Will, Kane) continue to remain in a “high” risk category.
Is it a good idea to mask children without symptoms or exposure for added protection?
Dr. Hoscheit: Masking continues to be recommended in “high” transmission areas. Similar to older teens and adults, the majority of children under the age of 16 years old also carry at least some protective antibodies. While masking may not be mandatory, in crowded spaces it does provide added protection – especially as we move into cold and flu season.
What other advice do you have for parents and caregivers?
Dr. Taormina: The best protection we have against severe COVID illness in adults and children is to be up to date on your COVID vaccines – this means receiving both a primary series of vaccination as well as all boosters for which you and your children are eligible.
Our team is following the latest developments and recommendations from the CDC, IDPH and other key health organizations to keep you, our team members and our communities safe. Stay up to date on the latest COVID guidelines, resources and vaccinations here >