Updated guidance on returning to school following an illness

The New York State Department of Health recently released updated protocols for school districts, parents, health care providers and others to use in determining how and when students and staff can return to school after showing symptoms of coronavirus or similar illness, or being exposed to the coronavirus. This guidance affects all school districts in New York State.

Overview of new protocols

State guidance recommends any COVID symptom be evaluated and tested

If a student or employee has shown symptoms of the coronavirus, they should be evaluated by a health care provider (HCP) and the following must take place before that person can return to school:

  • The student or employee provides one or both of the following:
    • A note from a health care provider indicating a COVID-19 test was negative AND/OR
    • A copy of the negative COVID-19 test result AND
  • The student or employee’s symptoms are improving AND
  • The student or employee is fever-free for at least 24 hours without the use of fever-reducing medicines.

If evaluation from a healthcare provider and COVID-19 test results are not completed within 48 hours, the Albany County Health Department must be notified. The individual would be presumed positive by the health department, requiring an isolation period. The affected student or employee would not be able to return to school until the health department has released them from isolation. If no action is taken, meaning no evaluation from a healthcare provider and no testing, typically the health department will not approve release from isolation until:

  • At least 10 days have passed since the day symptoms started; AND
  • Symptoms are improving; AND
  • They are fever-free for at least 72 hours without use of fever reducing medications.

What if a health care provider determines symptoms are not COVID-related?

If a student’s or employee’s health care provider provides a diagnosis of a known chronic condition with unchanged symptoms, or a confirmed acute illness (examples: laboratory-confirmed influenza, strep-throat) AND COVID-19 is not suspected, then a note signed by the HCP explaining the alternate diagnosis is required before the student or employee is allowed to return to school. They may return to school according to the usual guidelines for that diagnosis.

Please be aware that a signed note from an HCP documenting an unconfirmed acute illness, such as viral upper respiratory illness (URI) or viral gastroenteritis, will not be accepted for a return to school.

What happens if there’s a positive case?

In the event of a positive COVID result, contact tracing protocols are initiated by the Albany County Department of Health.

The district will assist with contact tracing by:

  • Keeping accurate attendance records of students and staff members
  • Ensuring student schedules are up to date
  • Keeping a log of any visitor which includes date and time, and where in the school they visited
  • Assisting the local health departments in providing all contacts of the individual in accordance with the protocol, training, and tools provided through the NYS Contact Tracing Program.

As you know, everyone who enters our school buildings is required to complete a daily health screening to identify potential COVID symptoms and assess possible exposure to the virus. Those who are ill or who may have been exposed through close contact or travel are asked to stay home.

Experiencing symptoms? DOH guidance for parents and staff

The updated state guidance includes detailed decision-making guides that can help parents and staff members sort out questions regarding the new protocols, especially if a student or an employee is experiencing one of the following symptoms:

  • Fever (over 100.0 °F)
  • Headache
  • Cough
  • Sore throat
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chills
  • Muscle aches
  • Loss of taste and smell
  • Gastrointestinal (nausea, vomiting or diarrhea)
  • Congestion/Runny Nose

Families should seek immediate medical care if their child is experiencing any of the following symptoms:

  • Trouble breathing or is breathing very quickly
  • Prolonged fever
  • Is too sick to drink fluids
  • Severe abdominal pain, diarrhea or vomiting
  • Change in skin color – becoming pale, patchy and/or blue
  • Racing heart or chest pain
  • Decreased urine output
  • Lethargy, irritability, or confusion
Preparing our students for success in tomorrow’s world.

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