KBS Reference Desk: Updated Stay at Home Periods

Q:        I heard that TEA has updated the staff COVID-19 re-entry procedures and criteria based on new guidance from the CDC. Are the stay-at-home procedures shorter now?

A:        Yes. TEA released an updated version of the Public Health Guidance on January 7, 2022, which provides for a much shorter stay-at-home period and clarifies those who are not required to quarantine following close contact exposure.

On December 27, 2021, the CDC shortened its recommended quarantine and isolation periods related to COVID-19. As such, the Commissioner updated TEA’s Public Health Guidance document to provide corresponding recommendations for shorter stay-at-home periods for school district employees and clarifying those staff members who are not required to quarantine following close contact exposure.

The stay-at-home period for individuals actively sick with COVID-19, suspected of being actively sick with COVID-19, or who have received a positive test result for COVID-19 may now return to campus when:

  • If symptomatic, at least 5 calendar days passed since symptom onset, and the individual is fever free for 24 hours without the use of fever suppressing medications (fever is a temperature of 100 degrees Fahrenheit or higher), and other symptoms have improved.
  • If asymptomatic, at least 5 calendar days after the day they tested positive.

Note, this shortened stay-at-home period is only applicable to employees and not students.

The updated TEA Public Health Guidance also clarifies the regulations pertinent to close contact [i.e. less than 6 feet away from an infected person (laboratory-confirmed or a clinical diagnosis) for a cumulative total of 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period], creating an exception to the stay-at-home period for staff who otherwise meet the close contact threshold but fit into one of the following categories: 1) employees who are 18 years of age or older and have received all recommended vaccine doses (including boosters and any additional primary shots for some immunocompromised individuals); or 2) employees who were confirmed COVID-19 positive in the last 90 days and have fully recovered. For staff who do not meet the above requirements, TEA recommends that the individual remain off campus during the above stay-at-home period but notes that it is a local employment policy decision. Importantly, however, if the district allows staff to continue working on campus following close contact exposure, rapid resting must be performed periodically for 5 days post-exposure, with testing on the 5th day recommended.

These updated options for shorter stay-at-home periods and close contact provide districts with more flexibility for staff returning to school. If a district chooses to utilize the shortened stay-at-home requirements, the district should update their mitigation plan, procedures flow charts, notice letters, and other documents relating to re-entry to reflect the change.

For further information concerning TEA’s most recent amendments see https://tea.texas.gov/sites/default/files/covid/SY-20-21-Public-Health-Guidance.pdf. The Commissioner of Education has indicated that additional updates to the Public Health Guidance will be forthcoming.

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 and close contact guidance.

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