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Illinois eases COVID guidance for K-12 schools after a change in CDC recommendations – NBC Chicago

As many school districts across Illinois begin welcoming back students next week, classrooms will look markedly different from last year — at least in terms of COVID precautions.

The state of Illinois, following the lead of federal health officials, announced it will enact relaxed COVID guidelines for K-12 public schools, which include lifting quarantine requirements and easing physical distancing.

While health officials acknowledge that COVID continues to spread, they claim that serious illnesses have been reduced due to high vaccination rates, infection-induced immunity and the widespread availability of effective treatments, including vaccines.

According to the latest guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, people are advised to self-quarantine if they have been exposed to COVID in high-risk settings such as nursing homes, prisons and homeless shelters.

However, schools are not included.

The CDC now says students and school staff who remain asymptomatic should wear a quality mask for 10 days and get tested on day five.

The transition away from quarantine signals the end of years of distance learning, which slowed learning and increased mental health problems. According to Illinois Superintendent of Education Carmen Ayala, the updated guidance recognizes the “importance of personal learning” and allows schools to “better adapt to changes in their communities.”

Schools are still being urged to keep students at home if they are sick and to conduct tests to confirm or rule out COVID infections.

However, the CDC’s advice for people who have tested positive for COVID has not changed.

Isolate for at least five days because people are most contagious during those first five days, according to the CDC. Isolation can end after the fifth day as long as the symptoms improve and the fever has gone, but covering is recommended until the tenth day.

Chicago Public Schools will also experience major changes.

Vaccines will not be mandated for the school year, neither will masks. dr Chicago Department of Health Commissioner Allison Arwady emphasized that as COVID evolves, so will policies around the virus.

“CPS and all schools throughout Chicago have been preparing intensely for the coming school year, and there is a tremendous amount of resources that have been expended at CPS,” said Arwady. “COVID continues to change, and it’s important that protocols evolve as we learn more.”

Nationwide, masks are only recommended when a school district is at a “high” community level for COVID.

The updated CDC guidance recommends the following strategies to contain the spread of COVID-19 and other infections:

  • • Encourage staying current on all routine vaccinations
  • • Implement policies that encourage students and staff to stay home when ill
  • • Optimize ventilation systems
  • • Reinforce proper hand hygiene and breathing etiquette
  • • Use appropriate cleaning and disinfection procedures

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