DHEC guidance is intended for K-12 schools to plan their response to known and possible cases of COVID-19 as well as known contacts. This is based on what is currently known about COVID-19.
Prevention Strategies to Reduce Transmission of COVID-19 in Schools
These COVID-19 prevention strategies remain critical to protect students, parents, teachers and staff. Schools will have a mixed population of both people who are fully vaccinated and people who are not fully vaccinated. It is important that steps be taken to protect all students and staff from COVID-19 and limit the spread of the virus.
∙ Mask use
∙ Physical distancing
∙ Contact tracing, in combination with isolation and quarantine
∙ Staying home when sick and getting tested
∙ Handwashing and respiratory etiquette
∙ Cleaning and disinfection
Individuals with symptoms of COVID-19 (but no known exposures to COVID-19) Individuals will be excluded from school, if they have any of the following with or without fever: o Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing -or -
o Loss of taste or smell -or –
o New or worsening cough
This is not a complete list of all symptoms of COVID-19. Other symptoms may include fever, chills, fatigue, muscle or body aches, headache, sore throat, congestion or runny nose, nausea/vomiting, or diarrhea. A person is able to spread the virus up to two (2) days before they have any symptoms, but many COVID-19 cases show no symptoms at all.
Individuals Who Test Positive
Isolation is required for all individuals who test positive with COVID-19.
Criteria for Return:
o 10 days since date of test collection or symptoms onset – and –
o 24 hours since the last fever without the use of fever-reducing medication – and – o Symptoms have improved – there are no new or worsening symptoms
A person who has symptoms of COVID-19 but has received a negative test for COVID-19 or has visited a health care provider and received an alternate diagnosis that would explain the symptoms of COVID-19. The person can return to school when they meet return criteria, per DHEC exclusion list and: • It has been at least 24 hours since the person had a fever (without using fever reducing medicine); AND • They have felt well for at least 24 hours.
DHEC defines close contact among students in the K-12 setting as those unvaccinated students within 3 feet of an infected person for a cumulative total of 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period from 48 hours prior to symptom onset (or specimen collection for an asymptomatic infected person) until the infected person meets criteria for release from isolation.
While mask use among unvaccinated individuals of all individuals age two years and older is strongly recommended, the presence or absence of masks does not affect the DHEC definition of a close contact for K-12 students. This departure from the CDC’s guidance, which requires mask use for both individuals to prevent close contact at 3 to 6 feet of physical distancing, is based on scientific literature looking at transmission rates in European schools, which separate students by one meter (3.28 feet).
o The standard CDC definition of close contact (less than 6 feet apart, regardless of mask use, for a total of 15 minutes or more) applies to all unvaccinated adults, including teachers, staff, or other adults in the school setting.
Individuals will be excluded from school if identified as being in close contact with an individual who has tested positive for COVID-19 2 days (24-48 hours) prior to the onset of symptoms (or date of test collection if no symptoms).
Quarantine is required for an individual who has been in close contact (within 3 feet for students or 6 feet for adults, for at least 15 minutes cumulatively over a 24-hour period) with someone who is determined positive with COVID-19 either through testing or symptom consistent diagnosis.
∙ A person who is not fully vaccinated and has been in close contact with someone with COVID-19 can return to school after completing 14 days of quarantine. The 14 days of quarantine begin after the last known close contact with the COVID-19 positive individual.
∙ A person who is fully vaccinated and does not have any symptoms after a close contact with someone with COVID-19 does not need to quarantine, if they voluntarily choose to provide documentation of their full vaccination status to eliminate the need for quarantine. It is recommended they get tested 3-5 days after exposure. It is important for them to wear a mask at school until 14 days after exposure or until they receive a negative test result.
∙ A person who has tested positive for COVID-19 in the last 3 months and does not have symptoms after a close contact with someone with COVID-19 must wear a mask at all times while in the school, monitor for symptoms daily and throughout the day, practice social distancing to the extent possible, practice good hand hygiene, and clean frequently touched surfaces often until 14 days after exposure.
∙ A person who has been in close contact with someone with COVID-19, who develops symptoms while in quarantine and has no other alternate diagnosis to explain the symptoms can return to school when • It has been 10 days since the first day of symptoms; AND • It has been at least 24 hours since the person had a fever (without using fever reducing medicine); AND• Other
symptoms of COVID-19 are improving. This applies to vaccinated or unvaccinated individuals.
The CDC continues to recommend quarantine for 14 days after last exposure. The LCSD continues to follow the 14 day quarantine for close contacts.
The CDC does provide options for shortening quarantine; however, districts and schools may elect to implement or forego the option of shortened quarantine depending on their individual capabilities. Individuals should defer to district or school policy when determining their return to the educational environment from quarantine.