CDC Releases Updated Guidance for COVID-19 Prevention in K-12 Schools: Masks for All (July 28,2021)

Given new evidence on the B.1.617.2 (Delta) variant, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has updated the guidance for fully vaccinated people. CDC now recommends universal indoor masking for all teachers, staff, students, and visitors to K-12 schools, regardless of vaccination status. Children should return to full-time in-person learning in the fall with layered prevention strategies in place.

To access the CDC guidance page, click here.

PDE & PDH Provide Recommendations for Preparing for a Safe New School Year (July 28, 2021)

With the first day of the 2021-22 school year approximately one month away, the departments of Health (PDH) and Education (PDE) are offering recommendations to families and schools as they safely prepare for in-person teaching and learning.  

PDH and PDE encourage all eligible students ages 12 and older, and other eligible members of their household, to get their COVID-19 vaccinations before the new school year.  

“There are safe and effective vaccines available to help stop the spread of COVID-19. As students look forward to returning to classes, getting a vaccine should be considered an essential back-to-school item on this year’s list,” Acting Secretary of Health Alison Beam said. “The COVID-19 vaccine is our best protection from this virus.” 

All Pennsylvanians aged 12 and older are eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. Use Vaccine Finder to find a COVID-19 vaccine provider near you.  

School Guidance
PDH and PDE continue to advise K-12 school entities to follow current Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidance, to the greatest extent possible, when creating and implementing mitigation policies and practices. A summary of the CDC’s recently updated guidance is available on PDE’s website.   

The American Rescue Plan Act and U.S. Department of Education (USDE) require school entities to develop Health and Safety plans that implement prevention and mitigation policies in line with the most up-to-date guidance from the CDC for the reopening and operation of school facilities. PDE plans to post school Health and Safety Plans on its website later this summer.

Face Coverings/Masks
According to the CDC “Masks should be worn indoors by all individuals (age 2 and older) who are not fully vaccinated. Consistent and correct mask use by people who are not fully vaccinated is especially important indoors and in crowded settings, when physical distancing cannot be maintained.”

Schools may adopt stricter masking policies. Each school entity must include a locally determined face covering policy in its Health and Safety Plan.

“Our schools have gone to great lengths to help create safe learning environments and protect their communities throughout the pandemic,” said Secretary of Education Noe Ortega. “Acting Secretary Beam and I advise schools to continue to protect their communities by following current CDC guidance, to the greatest extent possible, as they plan and prepare for the new school year. These measures will help ensure students, educators, and school staff experience a safe return to in-person teaching and learning this fall.” 

To access the press release, click here.

CDC Study Shows Importance of School Staff Vaccines (July 26, 2021)

A report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released on July, 23, 2021 showed the importance of vaccinations for school staff. The report, based on a study of the School District of Philadelphia(PA), examined infection rates in school staff who were vaccinated and unvaccinated. When in-person schooling resumed the week of March 21, 2021, the school district required all employees to have weekly COVID-19 screening tests. The resumption of in-school instruction followed a mass vaccination program using the Pfizer-BioNTech 2-dose vaccine offered under a partnership between the Philadelphia Department of Public Health and Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia to all 22,808 School District of Philadelphia employees during February 23, 2021 through April 3, 2021. The percentage of positive test results was lower among persons who reported receipt of two vaccine doses compared with those who reported receipt of one dose or zero doses In fact, there was a 95% lower percentage of positive test results among persons who reported receiving two doses of a COVID-19 mRNA vaccine than among those who were not fully vaccinated.

To view the full report on the CDC website, click here.

USDE Advises Schools on Use of ARP Funds, Provides Ventilation Resources (July 26,2021)

The U.S. Department of Education (USDE) is advising schools that they can use American Rescue Plan (ARP) education funds to improve indoor air quality for in-person instruction, including through:

  • Inspection, testing, and maintenance of current ventilation systems and approaches
  • Purchasing portable air filtration units, such as HEPA air filters
  • Purchasing MERV-13 (or higher) filters for your HVAC system and ACs
  • Purchasing fans
  • Repairing windows and/or doors so that they can open to let fresh air in
  • Servicing or upgrading HVAC systems consistent with industry standards
  • Purchasing equipment to run outdoor classes
  • Purchasing carbon dioxide (CO2) monitors, air flow capture hoods, and anemometers for custodians and building personnel to assess ventilation
  • Paying for increased heating/cooling costs due to increased use of heating/cooling systems
  • Other spending that supports inspection, testing, maintenance, repair, replacement, and upgrade projects to improve the indoor air quality in school facilities, including mechanical and non-mechanical heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems, filtering, purification and other air cleaning, fans, control systems, and window and door repair.

USDE is also providing the following additional resources:

For more information from USDE, click here.