DCHD Back To School Guidance Stresses Masks For Unvaccinated

DCHD Back To School Guidance Stresses Masks For Unvaccinated

The DuPage County Health Department (DCHD) has released its recommended guidelines for COVID-19 prevention when returning back to school in the fall.

County health officials are stressing the importance of masking up, with a statement that reads:

DCHD strongly recommends school districts begin the school year requiring that masks be worn indoors by all individuals (age 2 years and older) who are not fully vaccinated against COVID19. CDC continues to recommend masking and physical distancing in schools as key prevention strategies, particularly as COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations rise. Prevention strategies in schools will continue to evolve as COVID-19 community transmission declines to lower levels for sustained periods and when individuals under the age of 12 years are eligible to be vaccinated.

Layered Approach

Along with the use of masks, the health department encourages schools to take a layered approach, as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Those tactics include promoting vaccination, social distancing, enhanced ventilation, supporting hand washing, heightened cleaning protocols, and screening testing. DCHD says these strategies can help limit the spread and risk of COVID-19 within a school.

Masks Help Limit Those Quarantined

The department noted that the CDC has now changed its definition for who is considered a “close contact” in a potential COVID-19 exposure situation.

In the past it was defined as someone within 6-feet of an infected individual for more than 15 minutes over a 24-hour period. Now that definition excludes students within 3 to 6 feet of infected students if both were wearing masks. Thus, the DCHD says, having students mask up will help limit the amount of people who will have to quarantine in an exposure situation.

Unvaccinated Considerations

The health department also touched on the difficulty of confirming vaccination status, recommending the following:

If schools are not reliably or consistently able to assess and track COVID-19 vaccination status, then schools may consider expanding the masking requirement to all students and staff (irrespective of COVID-19 vaccination status), toward promoting a safe environment for in-person learning.

District Decision

The DCHD acknowledges that ultimately, final decisions for returning to school protocols are in the hands of each district.

Last night Indian Prairie School District 204 voted to recommend but not require masks in its return to learn plan for the fall. The district said it will monitor metrics, and could require masks in the future should transmission levels grow. Naperville School District 203 has not yet made a final decision on the matter, though many came to the last board of education meeting to voice their opinions.

Naperville News 17’s Kim Pirc reports.

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