NCDHHS School Guidance EncouragesVaccines and Masking to Keep Students in the Classroom; Provides New Test-to-Stay Option
With COVID-19 cases reaching pandemic highs, the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services urges K-12 schools to promote vaccination and boosters for students and staff and require students and staff wear masks indoors to keep students in the classroom and limit the risk of COVID-19 transmission.
"Research and lived experience in this pandemic have shown it is essential we do everything we can to safely keep our students in the classroom," said NCDHHS Chief Deputy Secretary Susan Gale Perry. "In-person learning is more than academics, it’s also children interacting with their peers, getting healthy meals and accessing critical support services."
Requiring masks in schools reduces the risk of COVID-19 transmission. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently published an updated review of scientific data that continues to show the benefits of mask wearing in reducing the risk of COVID-19 transmission. The updated review included a study of the effectiveness of masking in 70 K-12 schools during the 2020-21 school year, which showed secondary transmission rates were significantly lower for interactions between individuals wearing masks.
Excluding a student or staff member from school following a COVID-19 exposure should be a last resort. NCDHHS has provided several tools to support schools in achieving this goal. A K-12 student or staff member who has been in close contact with someone confirmed to have COVID-19 — and has not themselves developed symptoms or tested positive — can still attend school if:
With the addition of a Test-to-Stay option, the list of scenarios for remaining in the classroom is expanded to include to unmasked exposures (e.g., when students are eating lunch). This Test-to-Stay option only applies to K-12 school settings that require masks, which data has shown limits the risk of transmission. As part of Test-to-Stay, the person who was exposed to COVID-19 should:
School districts, charter schools and private schools can request testing kits and other testing support from NCDHHS as part of the StrongSchoolsNC K-12 COVID-19 Testing Program. Additionally, public schools can request funding to hire additional school nursing support staff for school testing and other school-based health services.
Students, staff and families are reminded to take precautions to protect themselves and their communities by getting vaccinated (and boosted as soon as eligible), wearing a well-fitting mask and getting tested for COVID-19 if they believe they may have been exposed or are experiencing symptoms.
Find out how to book an appointment in advance for your vaccine or booster shot at MySpot.nc.gov (English) or vacunate.nc.gov (Spanish).
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