What you need to know – NBC Chicago

As the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention assesses potential changes to a slew of COVID protocols, Chicago Public Schools announced changes it will make to the district’s handling of the virus this fall.

According to Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady and CPS CEO Pedro Martinez, CPS will not require students and faculty to be vaccinated against the virus when they return to buildings this fall.

In addition, students will also not be required to wear masks on a regular basis, but will have to do so in specific cases, according to officials.

“CPS and all of the schools in Chicago have done a lot of preparation for the upcoming school year, and there’s a huge amount of resources that have been put into that at CPS,” Arwady said. “COVID continues to change, and it’s important that protocols continue to evolve as we learn more, so I think we’re in a really good position heading into the school year.”

Here’s what we know about district policies:

COVID vaccination

Under this year’s protocols, neither students nor faculty will be required to receive COVID vaccines, though the district is “still strongly encouraging” those eligible to get vaccinated.

“Close contact” procedures

According to officials, there will be changes to the district’s “close contact” protocols, including a step away from the “test to stay” program the district previously used.

Officials say only 1.5% of people considered “close contacts” of COVID patients ended up testing positive for the virus themselves, driving the changes.

Unvaccinated people will have the following three options when considered a “close contact” of a COVID case:

-Submit proof of full vaccination

-Learn/work from home for a period of five days, then wear a mask at school for days 6-10

– Participate in “Test-to-Stay” protocols.

Under these protocols, students and faculty must

-Get two quick tests from their school

-Test negative on Monday and Thursday after exposure and submit results to CPS

-Stay symptom-free throughout the following days.

-Wear a mask and refrain from participating in sports and extracurricular activities for 10 days after exposure

Masking guidelines

Masking won’t be necessary in most situations, according to CPS, but it’s still “strongly recommended.” Masks will be available for those who request them, officials said.

In some cases, however, masking will be necessary:

-Students and staff returning from isolation after testing positive for COVID will be required to wear a mask until 10 days have passed since their symptoms began.

-People identified as “close contacts” of COVID patients will be required to wear a mask for 10 days following their exposure, regardless of their vaccination status.

-If there are three or more cases of COVID in the same class, students and teachers will be required to wear a mask for at least 10 days after the notification of the last positive result.

Contact tracing changes

-In primary schools, contact tracing will be carried out at the class level, which means that if one person tests positive for the virus, all other people in the class will automatically be considered “close contacts” and will be informed of the test result.

These people would then be required to wear a mask for up to 10 days after exposure.

-In high schools, contact tracing will be done at the individual level, and the response will vary depending on whether or not the student or staff member is vaccinated against COVID.

* Vaccinated students and teachers who are considered “close contacts” will be allowed to stay at school as long as they wear a mask for 10 days after their exposure.

*Unvaccinated students and staff will be required to work or study from home for five days, then wear a mask for days 6-10, unless they choose to participate in “Test-to-Stay” protocols.

Additional protocols and policies:

-Air filters have been replaced in all CPS schools

-CPS will thoroughly clean and disinfect all schools ahead of the school year.

-CPS will offer four permanent vaccination clinics in Clark, Roosevelt, CVCA and Richards.

-Students and faculty who wish to register for weekly COVID testing must do so before the school year with new consent forms. These can be found at color.com/readycheckgo-cps

Unvaccinated students and faculty are encouraged, but not required, to register. Testing will begin August 29, with home testing offered the week of August 22.

NBC Chicago

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