Infectious Disease Prevention for Schools and Early Childcare Programs

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The Delaware County Health Department (DCHD) is committed to the health and safety of the families and staff members in schools and childcare environments. Our role as a health department is to offer support and resources for these organizations to adopt as part of their facility health and safety plans for prevention and mitigation of disease transmission. The following is information based on the most recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Commonwealth of Pennsylvania guidance. Schools and daycare programs should put in place a core set of infectious disease prevention strategies as part of their normal operations. In the case of COVID-19, the addition and layering of COVID-19-specific prevention strategies should be tied to COVID-19 Community Levels.

Each school district and/or childcare program will develop their own health and safety policy and protocols to share with their families. DCHD is available for technical assistance as facilities develop and update their plans, and for support during disease clusters or outbreaks. DCHD’s requirement for K-12 schools is to continue the COVID-19 case reporting to the state that was conducted last year. The information on this page is best practice guidance for school districts and childcare programs when creating and updating their health and safety plans. DCHD may need to change this approach and update this information as the COVID-19 environment continues to evolve.

I. COVID-19 Reporting and Surveillance in Schools and Childcare Programs

  1. Consistent with practice during the 2021-2022 school year, Delaware County K-12 schools should continue to report COVID case data to the Pennsylvania Department of Health (PADOH) through the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE). Schools should submit aggregate case numbers on a weekly basis using the short survey on PDE's Future Ready Comprehensive Planning Portal (FRCPP). If a school does not have any new cases within the reporting period, a survey does not need to be submitted. The survey should be submitted by 5:00 PM on Fridays. Schools and childcare programs do not need to report COVID-19 cases directly to the DCHD.
  2. For the 2022-2023 school year, DCHD plans to monitor existing school COVID-19 surveillance data reported to the Pennsylvania Department of Education and the Pennsylvania Department of Health (PADOH) and Project ACE-IT.
  3. If DCHD identifies a COVID cluster based on surveillance data, DCHD will reach out to the school or childcare program to provide technical assistance.1
    1. DCHD strongly encourages schools and childcare programs to notify families and staff when clusters or concerning trends are identified to empower individuals and families to choose to take their own mitigative steps (masking, testing).
    2. Schools and childcare programs may reach out to DCHD directly for technical support via DCHDinfectioncontrol@co.delaware.pa.us, and are strongly encouraged to do so if a the number of cases in teachers/staff and/or students begin to significantly impact the learning environment.

II. COVID-19 Isolation and Quarantine

  1. Isolation and quarantine guidance for the general population can be found here.
  2. Quick guides for isolation and quarantine in early care and education programs can be found here.
  3. Per current CDC guidelines, people do not need to quarantine if they come into close contact with someone who has COVID-19. This means students and staff can continue attend school activities if they are determined to be a close contact. However, students and staff who identify as close contacts should follow the recommendations to wear a well-fitting mask for ten days and get tested following their exposure.

III. COVID-19 Community Levels

  1. Protection against COVID-19 is essential in school and childcare settings. CDC encourages schools and childcare programs to follow prevention steps based on their community risk levels. Schools and childcare programs can stay up to date with community levels through the CDC webpage:
    1. At a Low Risk Level, encourage
      1. Stay up to date with COVID-19 vaccines.
      2. Get tested if you have symptoms.
    2. At a Medium Risk Level, encourage
      1. If you are at high risk for severe illness, talk to your healthcare provider about whether you need to wear a mask and take other precautions.
      2. Stay up to date with COVID-19 vaccines.
      3. Get tested if you have symptoms.
    3. At a High Risk Level, encourage
      1. Wear a mask indoors in public.
      2. Stay up to date with COVID-19 vaccines.
      3. Get tested if you have symptoms.
      4. Additional precautions may be needed for people at high risk for severe illness.

IV. COVID-19 Vaccine Information

  1. Promoting vaccination within communities is one of the most important strategies for reducing the transmission of infectious diseases, including COVID-19.
  2. Those who have completed their primary series (and a booster when eligible) are at a reduced risk of experiencing severe illness or death from COVID-19. Vaccinated people can still be infected and spread the virus to others, but symptoms tend to be milder.
    1. Vaccinations are available throughout Delaware County - visit Vaccines.gov or the Delaware County COVID 19 vaccination website for more information

V. COVID-19 Testing Information

  1. In-School Testing for Staff and Students
    1. The CDC recommends testing for students in school to reduce the transmission of COVID-19. Maintaining the capacity to test symptomatic students at school as needed is a helpful mitigation strategy. In school testing can also help mitigate exposures related to extracurricular activities involving transportation and/or overnight travel.
    2. At a high COVID-19 Community Level, schools and childcare settings can consider implementing screening testing for students and staff for high-risk activities (for example, close contact sports, band, choir, theater); at key times in the year, for example before/after large events (such as prom, tournaments, group travel); and when returning from breaks (such as, holidays, spring break, at the beginning of the school year). In any screening testing program, testing should include both vaccinated and unvaccinated people.
  2. More information about COVID-19 testing can be found on the PA DOH and Delaware County Department of Health webpages.

VI. Mitigation Strategies & Best Practices

  1. Ventilation
    1. Ventilation is one component of maintaining healthy environments and is an important COVID-19 prevention strategy for schools and early childcare programs.
    2. Ventilation in facilities can reduce the number of viral particles in the air. Opening doors and windows (when possible) can allow for fresh air to circulate the building, creating better ventilation throughout the facility. Child-safe fans may also help to circulate air throughout the facility. In school transportation vehicles, opening the windows a few inches (when safe to do so) can help to circulate air through the vehicle. More information, including an Interactive School Ventilation Tool, is available on the CDC’s website.
    3. When COVID-19 Community Levels increase or in response to an outbreak, schools and childcare programs can take additional steps to increase outdoor air intake and improve air filtration. Schools and childcare programs may also consider holding some activities outside if feasible when the COVID-19 Community Level is high.
  2. Staying Home When Sick
    1. Staying home when sick can lower the risk of spreading infectious diseases, including COVID-19, to other people. People who have symptoms of respiratory or gastrointestinal infections, such as cough, fever, sore throat, vomiting, or diarrhea, should stay home.
    2. In accordance with applicable laws and regulations, schools and early childcare programs should allow flexible, non-punitive, and supportive paid sick leave policies and practices.
    3. Schools should also provide excused absences for students who are sick, avoid policies that incentivize coming to school while sick, and support children who are learning at home if they are sick.
  3. Mask to Stay (MTS)
    1. Mask to Stay is a tool used to continuously prevent the spread of COVID-19 in schools. This strategy allows for asymptomatic students or staff who may have been exposed to COVID-19 who are either unvaccinated or partially vaccinated to attend school. Those who take part in this program are required to wear a mask in school when around others for 10 days after their exposure. Testing at days 4-6 should be offered. The individual may remain in school if they continuously test negative and remain asymptomatic. This program does not include household exposures. If the individual cannot wear a mask that is well-fitting, that individual cannot participate in the MTS program.
      1. MTS individuals must always wear a proper fitting mask in school unless they are eating, drinking, or taking isolated mask breaks. The individual must wear a mask while participating in sports or other school extracurricular activities.
  4. Cleaning and Maintaining Facilities
    1. Cleaning surfaces once a day is typically adequate to remove viruses. Using approved disinfectants will reduce the risk of transmission of infection. If a school or school facility has had a person test positive for COVID-19 within the last 24 hours, it is recommended to both clean and disinfect the space.
    2. Information on EPA-approved products suitable for cleaning schools is available on EPA’s website.
    3. More information about cleaning and maintaining facilities can be found on the CDC webpage.
  5. Extracurricular Activities Information
    1. Due to the nature of many extracurricular activities, students should abstain from participation if they are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 or other illnesses. DCHD encourages schools to consider the unique circumstances of the activities and consider the use of screening testing when appropriate.
    2. Additional information on COVID-19 and extracurricular activities is available on CDC’s website.
  6. Information for Camps
    1. CDC’s guidance for frequently asked questions for directors of overnight camps provides details and context for that may arise in a camp setting.
    2. Outdoor activities, cohorting, optimizing ventilation indoors, as well as general strategies such as handwashing and social distancing are highly recommended. Attention to COVID-19 Community Levels transmission is helpful in determining prevention and mitigation strategies.

Notes

  1. One tool for schools or childcare programs to identify a concerning level of cases is to use the Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists (CSTE) definition of a “cluster.” CSTE defines a cluster as multiple cases comprising at least 10% of students, teachers, or staff within a specified core group (including but is not limited to extracurricular activity, cohort group, classroom, before/after school care, etc.) with symptom onset or positive test result within 14 days of each other.

Last Updated: August 26, 2022



For more information and assistance, the Delaware County Health Department Wellness Line is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. In addition to responding to phone calls, the Wellness Line also responds to email inquiries.

Phone: (484) 276-2100 (Available 24/7)
Email: DelcoWellness@co.delaware.pa.us



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Delaware County, presently consisting of over 184 square miles divided into forty-nine municipalities is the oldest settled section of Pennsylvania.


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