Damakant Jayshi

In a major development, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) endorsed a policy that allows students exposed to the coronavirus to stay in classrooms for in-person learning if they can be tested in school.

As per the policy, Test-to-Stay, students do not have to quarantine at home if the result of the test in school is negative.

In a media statement released on Friday, the public health agency said the “Test-to-Stay is another valuable tool in a layered prevention strategy that includes promoting vaccination of eligible students and staff, requiring everyone age 2 and older wear a mask inside schools and facilities, keeping at least 3 feet of distance between students, screening testing, ventilation, handwashing, and staying home when sick.”

The CDC released two reports in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report highlighting the use of test-to-stay practices. The reports are based on studies conducted in Chicago and Los Angeles.

“Test-to-stay is an encouraging public health practice to help keep our children in school,” CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said on Friday.

The challenge, however, could be the availability of adequate test kits. The White House has privately warned COVID-19 test makers that the demand for tests could double or triple in the two months given the rapid spread of Omicron, the latest coronavirus variant.

Some area schools, like D.C. Everest, already have some version of that policy in place.

“Students identified as close contacts who are fully vaccinated and asymptomatic are not required to quarantine,” says D.C. Everest’s Covid policy. “Vaccinated individuals deemed close contacts are still recommended to: Wear a mask in indoor settings for 14 days or until they receive a negative PCR test.” However, close contacts who are not fully vaccinated can return to school only after 10 days “provided they are symptom free. Close contacts are encouraged to wear a mask through day 14.”

Wausau School District, on the other hand, has in place a matrix model for its elementary and secondary school levels. According to the matrices adopted in September, students and staff in any given elementary classroom with one positive Covid case will be required to wear masks for at least 10 days. In the case of secondary schools, if any reach a 5% COVID positivity rate, “then all students and staff in that school will need to wear a mask for 7 days.”

CDC also recommended everyone ages 5 years and older to get a COVID-19 vaccine.