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Governor McKee, Rhode Island Department of Health, Rhode Island Department of Education Announce New COVID-19 Guidance for Schools

PROVIDENCE, RI – Governor Dan McKee, the Rhode Island Department of Health, and the Rhode Island Department of Education today announced new COVID-19 guidance for Pre-K-12 schools which adopts the latest CDC guidance and will protect the health of school communities while keeping students in school.

"My Administration has been committed to keeping students in the classroom where they are safest and where they learn best, and we're taking steps to make sure that continues," said Governor McKee. "We're following the CDC and making changes to our school guidance that uses the existing capacities in schools, while prioritizing approaches based on data and the evolving surge in cases. Every student deserves a full, in-person education, and these new guidelines will help us ensure that COVID-19 does not disrupt their learning."

When students return to school Monday, January 10, the following guidelines will be effective:

- Anyone who tests positive for COVID-19, regardless of their vaccination status, should stay home and isolate for at least 5 days. They may return to school on day 6, if they don't have symptoms or their symptoms are improving, and they've been fever-free for 24 hours, or - Isolate at home until their symptoms are improving and they've been fever-free for 24 hours.

- Case investigation and contact tracing efforts will be streamlined to quickly notify close contacts and respond accordingly. - RIDOH will focus on shortened case interviews and identifying household contacts. - Schools should focus on identifying and notifying close contacts who were exposed at school.

- Staff and students age 18 and older who are identified as close contacts will be exempt from quarantine and should wear a well-fitting mask around others for 10 days, if they don't have symptoms and have - Received a vaccine booster dose; - Completed the two-dose primary series of Pfizer within the last 5 months; - Completed the two-dose primary series of Moderna within the last 6 months; or - Completed the one-dose primary series of J&J vaccine in the last 2 months.

- Students age 5-17 who are identified as close contacts will be exempt from quarantine and should wear a well-fitting mask around others for 10 days, if they have don't have symptoms and have: - Completed the two-dose primary series of Pfizer or Moderna more than 14 days prior the exposure date. - If they develop symptoms, they should isolate at home and get tested.

- Students and staff without symptoms, who are identified as close contacts, and aren't exempt from quarantine will be encouraged to follow the Monitor to Stay quarantine protocol, which allows students and staff to attend school in person and participate in school-related extracurricular activities during their quarantine period. In this case, they should - Conduct symptom screening and attest that they don't have symptoms for 5 days; - Follow quarantine guidance when outside school, as well as updated CDC guidance about masking; and - Athletic programs should continue current testing programs for sports.

- Students and staff identified as close contacts will be exempt from quarantine if they don't have symptoms and one of the following exemptions applies: - The person previously had COVID-19 no more than 90 days prior to the last date of close contact exposure; or - The person meets all of the Pre K-12 close contact exception criteria: - The close contact and infected person are both Pre K-12 students; - The exposure occurred inside a Pre K-12 classroom or structured outdoor Pre K-12 setting where mask use can be observed (i.e., holding class outdoors with supervision); - Both students wore face masks at all times; and - Students were at least 3 feet apart from each other at all times; or

- The person is a ?Pre-K-12 student or staff member and the exposure occurred at outdoor recess at a Pre K-12 school; or

- The exposure occurred on a P?re K-12 school bus where windows were open, all persons on the bus wore face masks, and there was at least one other adult in addition to the driver present to monitor that masks were worn and windows were open.

"This new guidance for schools aligns with the latest recommendations from national health experts at the CDC," said Director of Health Nicole Alexander-Scott, MD, MPH. "We know our kids learn best in school. It is critical that we minimize disruptions to school communities, while doing everything we can to limit transmission of COVID-19."

"We've heard from families across the state that want their children in school, and we're taking action," said RIDE Commissioner Angélica Infante-Green. "These new guidelines will ensure students benefit from the academic and social-emotional supports of in-person learning while protecting their health and safety. We're looking forward to continuing to work with school leaders in each district to support them in providing the high-quality education their students deserve."

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