Q: I read somewhere that TEA has updated the COVID-19 close contact re-entry procedures and criteria based on new guidance from the CDC. Are there exceptions to the mandatory 14-day stay-at-home period now?
A: Yes. TEA released an updated version of the Public Health Planning Guidance on December 10, 2020 which provides districts with the option of several shorter stay-at-home periods for individuals determined to be close contact.
On December 2, 2020, the CDC amended their guidance to allow for shorter stay-at-home periods for those determined to be in close contact with an individual test-confirmed with COVID-19. Additionally, the CDC advised that critical infrastructure services, such as schools, may permit close contact staff members who are asymptomatic to continue to work, without a stay-at-home period, in select instances when it is necessary to preserve school operations. As such, TEA has updated the Public Health Planning Guidance, providing districts with multiple options for close contact stay-at-home periods, applicable to both employees and students.
The stay-at-home period for individuals in close contact and experiencing no symptoms may now be:
· 10 days after the last close contact, so long as the individual continues to monitor themselves daily for symptoms and takes appropriate precautions (e.g., more consistent mask usage) through day 14
· 7 days after the last close contact, after receiving a negative test result (administered at least 5 days after the last close contact), so long as the individual continues to monitor themselves daily for symptoms and takes appropriate precautions through day 14
· 14 days after the last close contact
As indicated previously, because school districts are considered critical infrastructure, a district may determine certain staff “necessary to preserve school operations,” and choose not to require any stay-at-home period at all for that individual, so long as the affected staff member continues to monitor themselves daily for symptoms and takes appropriate precautions through day 14.
See https://tea.texas.gov/sites/default/files/covid/SY-20-21-Public-Health-Guidance.pdf. TEA notes that the CDC recommends only using the option for the no stay-at-home period for staff in limited circumstances. Additionally, TEA mentions that districts may consider adding additional protocols to increase monitoring those individuals returning with no stay-at-home period, such as COVID-19 tests on day 3 and/or day 7 after the close contact exposure.
These updated options for shorter stay-at-home periods following close contact provide districts with more flexibility for both students and staff returning to school. If a district chooses to utilize one or more of these new options, the district should update their mitigation plan, procedures flow charts, notice letters, and other documents relating to re-entry following close contact exposure to reflect the change.
Please contact your local school attorney if you seek additional information or have specific questions regarding your district’s use of the updated stay-at-home periods.