2022 - 2023 COVID-19 Back-to-School Guidelines

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.

You can check the rate of COVID in your area through the Illi­nois Depart­ment of Health (IDPH).

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 >

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