Students in New York will no longer be required to quarantine following a COVID-19 exposure in the coming school year, Gov. Kathy Hochul announced Monday.
Hochul said the state is updating its guidance for schools to align with the most recent advice from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The state previously advised schools to allow students who had been exposed to return to school only by testing out of quarantine, but that policy is also being eliminated.
The CDC revised its guidance for schools and other public places on August 11th to ease contact tracing, quarantine and testing recommendations for people who don’t show symptoms after an exposure in most settings. The only exceptions are health care arenas and high-risk congregate settings like correctional facilities and homeless shelters.
The federal health agency still recommends that anyone exposed to COVID-19 wear a high-quality mask, such as an N-95, for 10 days following the incident when in public or around others indoors. The CDC also advises people to watch for symptoms and to isolate and test immediately if they arise. If someone is symptom-free, they are still advised to get tested at least five days after being exposed.
Along those lines, the state is still recommending that students and teachers stay home if they’re feeling sick, and isolate while awaiting test results.
“We know there’s no replacement for in-classroom learning, and we’re going to make sure that this year is a very different year,” Hochul said in a statement on the new guidance.
The new state guidance also clarifies that those who have COVID-19 can end isolation after five days but should wear a mask through day 10. It adds that schools can opt to use the CDC’s ‘test-based strategy’ to potentially shorten the length of time for mask use after isolation by using rapid antigen tests.
“If you have access to antigen tests, you should consider using them. With two sequential negative tests 48 hours apart, you may remove your mask sooner than day 10,” the CDC states. Remember that a rapid antigen test is different and typically easier to obtain than a PCR test.
The state is also removing its recommendation for students to remain in pods, or cohorts, according to a letter the governor and health commissioner sent out Monday.
“This new guidance will give schools and districts more flexibility to continue providing in-person instruction as we head into the new school year,” Dr. Mary Bassett, the state health commissioner, said in a statement.
Hochul said the state is working to get children vaccinated ahead of the start of the school year but immunization against COVID-19 still isn’t a requirement for most students. The New York City Department of Education is requiring it for public school staff, visitors and students participating in high-risk activities, including certain sports.
New York state and city strategies for mitigating COVID-19 in schools have evolved significantly over the course of the pandemic. Hochul lifted the statewide mask mandate for schools in March, which is also when New York City Mayor Eric Adams removed it for the city. Despite expressing concerns about a potential rise in cases of COVID-19 this fall, Hochul has not talked about reversing that decision. Adams recently decided to make masks optional for students in day care as well.