NYSDOH releases updated testing and tracing guidelines for schools ahead of end of mask mandate

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — The night before New York’s statewide universal mask mandate for schools was set to expire, the New York State Department of Health released updated guidelines for schools.

Gov. Kathy Hochul’s mandate expires on Wednesday, March 2 and many schools in the Greater Rochester area have already announced they will pivot to a mask-optional policy but were still waiting on guidance about how to go about testing and contact tracing in an environment where not all students will be wearing masks.

The document still calls for students, staff and teachers to wear masks when returning to school during days 6-10 of their isolation period, and allows for individual counties and school districts to implement a universal masking requirement if they wish.

Universal masking is also no longer required on school buses or vans.

The NYSDOH guidelines suggests that whenever someone in school—student, staff or teacher—is determined to have
been exposed or potentially exposed, the individual should be tested for COVID-19 as follows unless that person has had a "lab-confirmed" case of COVID-19 within the past 3 months:

  • Consider testing immediately upon learning of the exposure or potential exposure.
  • At least five days after the last date of exposure or potential exposure, regardless of vaccination status.
  • If the individual is not fully vaccinated and attending or working at school after an exposure or potential exposure, frequent testing (e.g., daily, every other day, at least twice within 5 days) from the date of the exposure or potential exposure (Day 0) through at least day 5 should be strongly considered and encouraged.
  • Exclude from school if a test is positive and/or exclude from school and test as soon as possible if symptoms develop.

It also says schools should notify through either group or individual level contact tracing affected school staff, students, and their parents/guardians whenever an individual was in the same room as an infected individual and so was exposed or potentially exposed (i.e.,
in the same classroom as an infected individual for longer than 15 minutes), if schools are employing group level contact tracing or was identified as being exposed because they were a close contact with an infected individual if schools are employing individual level contact tracing.

Read the full guidelines below (mobile users, click here):

School Guidance 03.01.22 by News10NBC on Scribd