Suffolk County Health Recommends Mask Use in Schools

The Suffolk County Department of Health Services said Tuesday that it recommends that school districts maintain the same mask and physical distancing requirements that were previously in place.

It is not setting vaccinations requirements but said school districts could determine what to do.

The department said districts should adhere to guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that  all students, staff, and visitors must wear masks indoors regardless of vaccination status. Mask wearing is not required outdoors.

Meantime, the State Education Department said Tuesday that it would provide health guidance for school reopening no later than next week.

Education Commissioner Betty Rosa said the department would address:
  • Masks.
  • Physical distancing
  • Remote learning
  • Transportation
  • Community transmission tracking
  • Potential funding sources

Rosa  said  the department was stepping up because “This is necessary in light of the continued absence of health-related school opening direction and assistance from the governor’s office and the state Department of Health.”

The Education Department had objected last week when State Health Commissioner Howard Zucker announced that it would no longer provide guidance and that local school officials and others could decide on policies.

“This document will be based on Center[s] for Disease Control (CDC) guidelines and guidance from the American Academy of Pediatrics,” SED officials said in a memo sent to superintendents and principals Tuesday morning.

The county health department said it  “concurs with the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the American Academy of Pediatrics which urge universal mask wearing in schools. SCDHS also recommends that school districts follow the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) guidance for COVID-19 Prevention in K-12 Schools, updated on Aug. 5.

It also said that school districts would have to continue to report positive cases of COVID-19 to the department. Anyone who tests positive for COVID-19 must remain in isolation for 10 days from date of symptom onset or test date if asymptomatic.

“Consistent with CDC guidance, students in the K-12 indoor classroom who are within at least three feet of an infected student with masking are excluded from the definition of close contact and not required to quarantine. SCDHS concurs with CDC guidance which recommends that fully vaccinated persons who have come into close contact with someone with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 should be tested 3-5 days after exposure. Close contacts of positive cases of COVID-19 which do not fall in the exception detailed below must quarantine for 10 days and monitor symptoms through the 14th day. ”

The only exception is “In the K–12 indoor classroom setting, the close contact definition excludes students who were within three to six feet of an infected student (laboratory-confirmed or a clinically compatible illness) if both students correctly and consistently wore well-fitting masks the entire time. This exception does not apply to teachers, staff, or other adults in the indoor classroom setting.”


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