New state guidance released last Wednesday, Aug. 10, leaves Covid mitigation up to school nurses this school year.
The Vermont Agency of Education and Department of Health release was three-pages of loose guidance, signed by Vermont Secretary of Education Dan French and Health Commissioner Mark Levine. The state said it is aimed at establishing protocols for what officials described as “endemic” Covid-19 in schools when students return this fall.
In summary, when it comes to decisions about Covid-19 in schools during the upcoming school year, nurses will make the calls.
The state released a few hard-and-fast recommendations in the new guidance. For example, anyone who tests positive for Covid should follow state health department guidance — which currently recommends that they isolate for at least five days. Covid tests should be used only for symptomatic students and staff, and schools should not require a negative test result for kids to attend class.
Nurses will determine when to administer tests to students, when to send tests home, when to allow a symptomatic student to stay in class and when to require a symptomatic student to wear a mask.
Before the end of school last spring, state officials shipped 325,000 rapid Covid-19 tests to schools across the state. Schools will be able to order more from the state if needed during the year, officials said.
“As we begin to think of Covid-19 as an endemic disease, we once again need to shift our thinking. Covid-19, like the flu, is now a part of our lives. At the end of the 2021/2022 school year, testing was still an important strategy in the fight against Covid-19… For the upcoming school year, our approach to testing will be a bit different,” French and Levine wrote.
“With testing no longer a first-line strategy for Covid-19 prevention in Vermont, school nurses should revisit their pre-Covid-19 school sickness policies. This is an opportunity to identify possible improvements based upon lessons learned during the Covid-19 pandemic, keeping in mind public health principles in the prevention of all respiratory diseases,” French and Levine wrote.
Highlights from the state’s new Covid-19 sickness policy considerations/testing recommendations
- If the student or staff member is presenting with mild symptoms, the decision to test or return to class should be made by the school nurse.
- If a student or staff member is not well enough to learn or participate, regardless of whether they are tested for Covid-19, they should be sent home from school. A student who is being sent home due to illness may be required to wear a mask while awaiting pick-up.
- Antigen and LAMP tests should be used exclusively for symptomatic students and staff; school nurses should use their clinical judgment in determining when to use tests in schools. Covid-19 testing should not be required for symptomatic students or staff to stay at or return to school.
- A LAMP test can be used on a student or staff member if two or more antigen tests are negative, and the individual remains symptomatic.
- Antigen tests may be sent home to families of symptomatic students and staff.
To read the full state press release visit: bit.ly/schoolhealth2022.