Determining Prevention Strategies & Travel Restrictions

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Determining Prevention Strategies

How should schools apply the CDC’s recommended layered prevention strategies?

In alignment with CDC guidance, the state has issued an updated Executive Order 2021-18 that requires masks be worn indoors by all teachers, staff, students, and visitors to pre-K-12 schools, regardless of vaccination status. The state also requires all public and nonpublic schools to comply with contact tracing, in combination with isolation and quarantine, as directed by state and local health departments.

Following the FDA’s full approval to the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, this guidance has been updated in alignment with Executive Order 2021-22, implemented by 23 Ill. Admin Code 6, which requires that all school personnel receive the COVID-19 vaccine or submit to at least weekly testing.

Further, effective January 11, 2022 with the issuance of Executive Order 2022-03, schools and school districts must exclude students and school personnel from school who are confirmed or probable cases of COVID-19, who are close contacts to a case, or who exhibit COVID-19 like symptoms.

Additionally, the following COVID-19 prevention strategies remain critical to protect students and community members who are not fully vaccinated, especially in areas of moderate-to-high community transmission levels.

Promoting vaccination among eligible students

Physical distancing

Screening testing to promptly identify cases, clusters, and outbreaks

Ventilation

Handwashing and respiratory etiquette

Staying home when sick and getting tested

Cleaning and disinfection

According to the CDC, children should return to full-time in-person learning with proper prevention strategies in place. Understanding that schools and communities can be differently situated, the updated K-12 guidance from the CDC stresses the importance of offering in-person learning, regardless of whether all of the prevention strategies can be implemented at a particular school. Schools should work with local public health officials to determine which prevention strategies are needed in addition to the required strategies by evaluating local levels of community transmission and local vaccine coverage, including county-level case rates and community vaccination rates, can be found on IDPH’s website.

The CDC K-12 schools guidance references an array of prevention strategies in the context of keeping students and staff safe: “Schools will have a mixed population of both people who are fully vaccinated and people who are not fully vaccinated. Elementary schools primarily serve children under 12 years of age who are not eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine at this time. Other schools (e.g., middle schools, K-8 schools) may also have students who are not yet eligible for COVID-19 vaccination. These variations require K-12 administrators to make decisions about the use of COVID-19 prevention strategies in their schools to protect people who are not fully vaccinated.”

If school administrators, in consultation with local public health officials, decide to remove any of the recommended rather than required prevention strategies for their school based on local conditions, they should remove them one at a time and monitor closely (with adequate testing through the school and/or community) for any increases in COVID-19 cases. Required prevention strategies may not be removed at any time. (Review IDPH answers to FAQs on COVID-19 testing in schools for more information.) Schools should communicate their strategies and any changes in plans to teachers, to staff, to families, and directly to older students, using accessible materials and communication channels, in a language and at a literacy level that teachers, staff, students, and families understand.

Here are educational examples to assist schools in determining how to use prevention strategies to protect students and staff, as informed by local public health conditions:

A school in a community with substantial (50-99 new cases per 100,000 population in the last seven days) or high transmission (≥100 new cases per 100,000 population in the last seven days), with low teacher, staff, or student vaccination coverage (e.g., <30% of eligible population is fully vaccinated), and with a screening testing program in place may need to lessen physical distancing to ensure all students can access in-person learning.

A school in a community with substantial or high transmission, with a low teacher, staff, or student vaccination rate, and without a student screening testing program, should continue to maximize physical distancing and, in communities with high transmission, discontinue sports that involve sustained close contacts with others, unless all participants are fully vaccinated.

A school in a community with moderate transmission (10-49 new cases per 100,000 population in the last seven days), with moderate vaccination coverage (e.g., 40-60% of eligible population is fully vaccinated), and with a screening testing program in place could decide to suspend screening testing for the general student body but will continue screening for unvaccinated staff and students involved in higher-risk extracurricular activities until vaccine coverage increases or transmission decreases or both.

A school in a community with low transmission (<10 new cases per 100,000 population in the last seven days) and a high vaccination rate (e.g., ≥70% of eligible population is fully vaccinated) could consider no longer requiring physical distancing or suspending screening testing for students.

The considerations listed above are intended to serve as examples of how school administrators may use information about local public health conditions to inform decision-making. They are not intended to serve as a definitive state-recommended framework to determine how to adjust mitigation strategies.

How can schools determine what level of transmission is occurring in their community?

Schools can review data from the CDC or IDPH to find recent information on the number of new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 population in the previous week. CDC defines community transmission as low, moderate, substantial, or high as follows:

 LOW TRANSMISSION (BLUE)MODERATE TRANSMISSION (YELLOW)SUBSTANTIAL TRANSMISSION (ORANGE)HIGH TRANSMISSION (RED)
TOTAL NEW CASES PER 100,000 PERSONS IN THE PAST 7 DAYS0-9.9910-49.9950-99.99≥ 100

Schools should contact their local health department for more information and guidance to assess local public health conditions.

How can schools determine vaccine coverage in their community?

Schools can review data from the CDC or IDPH to find recent information on the number and proportion of residents in their community who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19. CDC data reporting shows county-level vaccine coverage data according to the following tiers: 0-29.9%, 30-39.9%, 40-49.9%, 50-69.9%, and 70%+.

Schools should contact their local health department for more information and guidance to assess local public health conditions.

What are the CDC’s requirements for school buses and other school-related transportation?

School bus drivers and monitors are school personnel and are therefore subject to the vaccination or testing requirements of Executive Order 2021-22 and 23 Ill. Admin. Code 6.

Further, the CDC issued an order, effective as of February 2, 2021, that requires all individuals to wear a mask on public transportation to prevent the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19. The CDC’s order applies to all public transportation conveyances, including school buses. In addition to consistent and correct universal indoor mask use in all pre-K-12 schools, as required by Executive Order 2021-18, passengers and drivers must wear a mask on school buses, including on buses operated by public and nonpublic school systems, subject to the exclusions and exemptions in CDC’s order.

There is no COVID-19-related capacity limit for passengers on school buses. During transportation, open or crack windows in buses and other forms of transportation, if doing so does not pose a safety risk. Keeping windows open a few inches improves air circulation.

Travel Restrictions

Do my school-aged children have to quarantine after returning from domestic travel?

In general, Illinois continues to recommend that people follow the CDC’s recommendations for domestic and international travel, including that people should delay domestic travel, and not travel internationally, until they are fully vaccinated. Additionally, the CDC’s guidance for schools is that in-person learning is a priority. Thus, school-aged children who are not fully vaccinated and must travel do not need stay home and self-quarantine after travel; they should continue to attend school in-person. School-aged children who are not fully vaccinated and must travel should get tested 5-7 days after travel, monitor for symptoms, and follow the IDPH guidance for if they test positive or if symptoms of COVID-19 develop. Schools should follow local guidance for travel restriction that may be more stringent.

Are there any current domestic or international travel restrictions for which we should be monitoring and excluding students and staff?

There is widespread, ongoing transmission of novel coronavirus worldwide. CDC recommends delaying travel until the traveler is fully vaccinated because travel increases the chance of getting and spreading COVID-19. To learn more about COVID-19 travel recommendations for a specific destination for those fully vaccinated and not vaccinated, visit COVID-19 Travel Recommendations by Destination.

Domestic travel guidance can be found here.

International travel guidance can be found here.