A multi-ethnic group of four children, 5 to 7 years old, playing together on a playground during school recess. They are sitting side by side on two slides, looking at the camera. They are all wearing masks, back to school during the COVID-19 pandemic, trying to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

IDPH Announces Shortened Isolation and Quarantine Periods Now Apply To K-12 Schools

Jan 7, 2022

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As anticipated, on January 6, 2022, the Centers for Disease Control (“CDC”) has updated their guidance on shortening isolation and quarantine periods for COVID-19, specifically related to schools.  On December 27, 2021, the CDC had issued guidance on isolation and quarantine periods for the general public, which the Illinois Department of Public Health (‘IDPH”) adopted.  However, IDPH made clear that the guidance adopted did not apply to schools and health care settings as of December 30, 2021. 

On January 7, 2022, IDPH issued a Health Alert, stating that the CDC recently clarified that the shortened isolation and quarantine guidance does apply to K-12 Schools.  As a result, IDPH and the Illinois State Board of Education (“ISBE”) plan to revise its existing regulations and guidance documents regarding exclusion from schools to align with the CDC’s Isolation and Quarantine guidance. 

Schools should expect IDPH to issue guidance based upon the below CDC recommended guidance:

Positive Test Result:

  • Regardless of vaccination status, staff or students who test positive for COVID-19 should isolate for 5 days after onset of symptoms or 5 days after a positive test if no symptoms are present.  If there are no symptoms or the symptoms have resolved after 5 days, they are released from isolation.  Students and staff who continue to have symptoms past the 5 days should wait to end isolation until they are fever-free for 24 hours and other symptoms have improved. 
  • Schools should ensure that students or staff who test positive continue to wear a well-fitted mask around others for 5 additional days.  If this is not possible, the individual should isolate for a total of 10 days.  If masks need to be removed (e.g. during lunch), 6 feet of physical distance should be kept until 10 days after onset of symptoms or positive result.  Schools should also ensure that positive individuals avoid students or staff who are immunocompromised or at high risk for severe disease. 

Close Contact Case:

  • Individuals 18 or older who have received all recommended vaccine doses, including boosters, and individuals aged 5-17 who have completed the primary series of COVID-19 vaccines, as well as individuals who have had a confirmed COVID-19 case within the last 90 days do not need to quarantine if they are a close contact.  They should wear a mask around others for 10 days, and test on day 5 if possible.  If symptoms develop, they should isolate until they receive a negative test result.
  • Individuals 18 or older who have completed the primary series of recommended vaccine doses, or the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine over 2 months ago, but have not received a booster shot, as well as unvaccinated individuals should stay home and wear a mask around others for 5 days after a close contact, and test on day 5 if possible.  If symptoms develop, they should isolate until they receive a negative test result. 
  • Children who have received the primary vaccination series but are not eligible for booster doses should not be excluded from school after a close contact unless symptoms develop and they test positive for COVID-19. 

Additionally, schools should create a plan for individuals with confirmed COVID-19 cases and close contacts to ensure they stay masked at all times indoors upon their return and through day 10.  This includes ensuring they are adequately distanced from others at times when they cannot wear a mask, such as during lunches and snack times. 

IDPH and ISBE will release updated regulations and guidance documents to reflect these changes soon.  Robbins Schwartz will continue to monitor for any new developments and guidance and will report updates as additional information becomes available.   Please reach out to your Robbins Schwartz attorney if you have any questions.