coronavirus in massachusetts

Mass. Releases Additional Guidance on Coronavirus Response at Schools

The new guidance clarifies self-quarantine and mask wearing protocol

NBC Universal, Inc.

School and health officials in Massachusetts have issued a statement clarifying guidance on how to handle cases of the coronavirus at school.

The joint memo from the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education and Department adds detail to previous guidance about when students must self-quarantine after coming in close contact with someone with COVID-19; as well as mask-wearing.

The memo defines a "close contact" of a person with the disease as those who have been within six feet of that person for at least 15 minutes while the person was infectious.

The officials defined the "infectious period" as starting two days prior to the onset of symptoms. The infectious period for asymptomatic people is "considered to begin 2 days prior to the collection of their positive test," the memo said.

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Earlier guidance said all students within the person's classroom would be considered close contact, the memo said.

A school district that had planned on a full-time in-class learning option is reconsidering after a cluster of coronavirus cases.

The memo states that all close contacts of a person diagnosed with the disease should be tested and must also self-quarantine for 14 days after last being exposed to that person.

Those who present COVID-19-like symptoms can "return to school after they have tested negative for COVID-19, have improvement in symptoms, and have been without fever for at least 24 hours without the use of fever reducing medications," the memo says.

The officials also provided further detail on mask-wearing, students in Grade 2 and above should wear masks at all times, except when eating and during "mask breaks."

As schools across Massachusetts grapple with what to do this fall, educators shared their concerns at the state house.

Younger students should wear masks whenever possible when it is safe to do so.

Last month, the DESE released a memo establishing protocols for what schools should do in various coronavirus scenarios.

Among the protocols were requirements for coronavirus testing or a two-week quarantine for students and staff who come in close contact with someone who tests positive. Students should continue with remote learning during the quarantine period, according to the guidelines.

If students or staff show coronavirus symptoms they are urged to stay home and get tested.

Bus drivers should be trained to screen for symptoms, according to the guidelines, and turn students away if they appear sick. If the student is on the bus already, bus drivers should ensure that all children keep their masks on and inform the school nurse. The nurse should meet the student when the bus arrives, which would then be disinfected.

In more than a dozen pages of guidelines, other protocols address what to do about individual exposure or individual positive tests, if a student appears symptomatic at school and if staff are symptomatic at home or school.

The guidance also outlines protocols for potential school closures, the presence of multiple cases in a school or a significant number of new cases in a town and the possibility that the state regresses to a previous reopening phase.

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