The state’s health department allows local health departments to make decisions that allow parents to avoid 10-day COVID-19 quarantines.
The Ministry of Health issued a note to “Test to stay” guidelines that would allow children to return to school after symptoms of COVID-19 disappear, allowing children to test out of quarantine and creating an exemption from weekly testing for unvaccinated staff or teacher testing for recently recovered COVID-19 cases.
The test to stay would allow students who are in close contact with someone with COVID-19 to stay in school as long as they take a COVID-19 test every day for seven days after being exposed. The state health department does not recommend local health departments to use the test to stay, but gives them the option.
“At this time, the (state health department) does not recommend (test to stay),” said the note. “However, if LHDs (local health departments) choose to allow (the test to stay) in schools under their jurisdiction, (the state health department) encourages them to ensure the following:
The school / district must have a written protocol that: (A) Consider equity (i.e.
See SCHOOL, (B) includes transmission follow-up actions (eg, contact tracing) in the event that an individual is positive. And (C) other factors deemed essential or important by the LHD or the school.
Daily testing should be performed and results received before the start of the school day, and positive individuals should be excluded / isolated according to existing procedures.
If the test is performed in an unattended environment (for example, at home), a mechanism to ensure that the test is performed correctly and on the right person should exist.
The exposed person who is allowed to remain in school through the TTS should always be quarantined outside of teaching / academic periods (weekends / holidays when the seven day period of the TTS is still active, but no school test required; after school / evening; no community activities or extracurricular participation including clubs, sports, arts / performing arts activities, etc.).
Massachusetts uses testing protocols to stay. According to the Associated Press, more than 2,200 Massachusetts schools have signed up to participate in at least one of three types of COVID-19 tests: test-and-stay, symptomatic tests, and pooled tests, which allow schools to test for samples in batches, then individually if COVID-19 is detected in the pooled batch.
Since the start of the school year, pooled test results show pool positivity rates of less than 1%, and the test and stay – which is used to test for close contact – has saved an estimated 25,000. school days for students who would otherwise have had to quarantine, the Republican governor said.
The test to stay has also resulted in a shortage of staff in schools to meet the demand for testing. Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker last week activated up to 450 members of the Massachusetts National Guard, up to 200 of whom will help with COVID-19 testing at school. The company responsible for handling the Massachusetts tests struggled to keep up with demand. Of the more than 2,200 schools to enroll, 1,410 had tested to stay, symptomatic or clustered the week of Oct. 17, according to the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.
The Centers for Disease Control has yet to approve the test to stay, but CDC director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said the CDC is working with states to assess the test to stay, with further advice to come.
“So we are working with states to assess a testing policy to stay as a promising potential new strategy for schools,” Welensky said on October 13. “And we anticipate that there will be directives to come.”