As the school year is just around the corner for Washington state, the Washington State Department of Health has released updated COVID-19 guidelines for schools and childcare facilities.
The new regulations come as Washington state is “entering a new stage of coexisting with COVID-19 in our communities, knowing that COVID-19 is here to stay for the foreseeable future,” while the department “recognizes the importance of being able to maintain in-person learning for children, and the fundamental links between education and long-term health outcomes,” a news release from the Department of Health states.
The COVID-19 Washington state requirements for schools and child care facilities include:
• All employees, volunteers and indoor contractors must be fully vaccinated or have an approved medical or religious exemption.
• If a staff member, student or child has symptoms of COVID-19, they must stay home and are recommended to test for illness and see a health care provider. If an individual begins to have symptoms at school, they must be sent home immediately and are encouraged to be tested.
• If an individual is symptomatic and waiting to leave school, they are required to be isolated and wear a mask if they are at least two years old. Anyone providing care or evaluation to the symptomatic person is required to wear personal protective equipment, such as a mask.
• A student, child or staff member who tests positive for COVID-19 must isolate themselves. The person can return to school after five full days of isolation if they are asymptomatic, if symptoms have improved and they have had no fever for the past 24 hours without the use of fever-reducing medications.
• All staff, visitors, children and students at least two years of age are required to wear a mask in the nurse or health room and in isolation areas.
• Schools and child care facilities are required to have a system in place to contact students and families of a COVID-19 case or outbreak. Schools are also required to notify staff of exposures and cases.
• Kindergarten through 12th-grade schools are required to provide timely testing for COVID-19 for students and staff who desire to be tested.
• It is required by Washington state law for any and all COVID-19 cases, outbreaks and suspected outbreaks in a school or child care to be reported to the local health jurisdiction.
These new COVID-19 regulations do not require students and children to be vaccinated in order to attend schools or childcare.
For those wanting to vaccinate their children against COVID-19 before the school year begins, children ages six months and older can now be vaccinated, and those five years and older can receive booster doses, according to the health department.
Gov. Jay Inslee already required all Washington state school employees and childcare providers to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19, along with all state employees, higher education, and most health and long-term care providers by October 2021, and for employers to verify the vaccination status of all employees.
Since 2014, all children in Washington state who are attending school or child care are also required by law to be fully vaccinated against chicken pox, mumps, diphtheria, German measles, measles, polio, pneumococcal disease, tetanus, whooping cough, hepatitis B and Haemophilus influenzae type b disease.