Back-to-school health guidance unveiled for upcoming school year

Back-to-school health guidance revealed by DPH this morning
New health guidance unveiled for when students return to school this fall
Published: Aug. 2, 2022 at 7:25 AM EDT|Updated: Aug. 2, 2022 at 2:01 PM EDT
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HARTFORD, CT (WFSB) - Public health officials unveiled their back-to-school guidance for the 2022-2023 academic year.

For the last two years, the message to students and parents was if your kid has any type of symptoms, they should stay home.

Now that guidance is changing.

“Being in school is what’s going to be most important,” said Department of Public Health Commissioner Manisha Juthani, MD.

Keeping kids in school is the goal for state education and health leaders.

The state rolled out its guidance Tuesday on how to keep children healthy and safe in the classroom.

“That’s what this next school year is going to be about is continuing to learn to live with COVID, it’s our partner at this point. We have to figure out the right strategies to keep us safe,” said Kate Dias, CEA President.

One of the optional strategies for districts to use is called “Test, mask, go.”

Before, students were asked to stay home if they had any symptoms of any kind.

Now with this new strategy, the health department is only asking kids who have a fever or test positive for COVID to stay home.

“If you have mild respiratory symptoms, we are encouraging schools to consider the policy of testing your child, if they’re negative consider putting a mask on and go to school,” Juthani said. “The masking is not a mandate it’s not what we’ve been through but it’s an additional prevention strategy.”

Eyewitness News asked how teachers and superintendents are feeling about the new “Test, mask, go” guidelines.

“They are feeling very good about it, and they are feeling good about having guidelines in the local context,” said Fran Rabinowitz, CAPSS Executive Director.

“I think the reality is if a teacher is concerned a kid is really exhibiting many COVID symptoms they can send them to the nurse we’ve been working really hard with our school nurses and they can guide the family on what’s the right thing to do,” said Dias.

As for testing, self-test kits will be available for students, teachers and staff for free.

The state has ordered 2.5 million kits for schools across the state.

The public health commissioner also noted that this is the first year all school-aged children are eligible for a vaccine, and clinics will be organized for all 36 districts across the state.

The announcements also centered on an indoor mask recommendation for all public buildings, including schools, in New Haven County, which was recently classified as having a high COVID transmission level according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

A news conference with the Department of Public Health happened at 11:30 a.m. in Hartford:

Public health officials unveiled their back-to-school guidance for the 2022-2023 academic year.

“We continue to drive home the message that all the tools are in place to combat this virus. Our toolbox includes vaccines, first and second boosters, Test to Treat locations, therapeutics, self-tests and state-supported testing,” Juthani said. “Our key strategies for the school year include starting healthy with vaccination, maximizing in-person learning with symptom awareness and at-home testing, and using available prevention tools, primarily the CDC Community Levels Map.”

They said the new guidance provides school districts with recommendations, tools, and strategies that can be used to reduce learning disruptions and keep students and staff safely in school for the upcoming year.

“Since the start of the 2021 school year, we have administered thousands of COVID-19 vaccines to children throughout the state and we have distributed millions of self-test kits—these have all been major game changers in the fight against COVID-19,” said Gov. Ned Lamont. “The goal with Launching into Healthy Learning is to maintain in-person learning for our children as much as possible and to keep them healthy and learning all year long.”

The Launching into Healthy Learning guidance documents were posted to the DPH website:

The last guidance from the DPH was issued back in February when it gave individual school districts the choice over whether or not to enforce a mask mandate.

A statewide mask mandate expired at the end of that month.

At the time, the Association of Public School Superintendents pointed to declining COVID-19 cases and a survey that reported 90 percent of districts opting to go optional for masks.

“As we launch into a new school year, we are working diligently with our partner state agencies and stakeholders to ensure all our students and staff can return to healthy, safe, and enriching in-person learning,” Russell-Tucker said. “The CSDE is looking forward to providing support to our districts throughout the upcoming school year to ensure uninterrupted student attendance and engagement, ultimately leading to student growth and success!”

State shares back-to-school health guidelines for upcoming schoolyear