EYEWITNESS NEWS (WBRE/WYOU) — With the school year back in session, the Pennsylvania Department of Health and the CDC have updated their guidance on how schools should handle COVID-19.

Pennsylvania Department of Health latest guidance

On September 7, 2021, the PA Acting Health Secretary signed an order stating that all face coverings must be worn in all schools and school entities at all times. The CDC is also recommending that anyone ages two and older continue wearing masks regardless of vaccination status.

The CDC did order that masks be worn on all forms of public transportation including school busses.

The most up-to-date guidance from the CDC says that students may be spaced three feet apart instead of the previously recommended six feet.

Contact Tracing, Isolation and Quarantine

The DoE recommends that schools continue to work with DOH, county or municipal health departments (CMHD) to complete contact tracing for individuals exposed to COVID-19.

For information on county and municipal health departments, click here.

Responding to Cases

When a positive case is identified in a student the CDC has outlined what the protocol is here. In addition to following the CDC’s flowchart, they ask you to follow the proper protocol for contact tracing as well.

For the latest guidance on case reporting and outreach to the DOH click here.

What do the levels of transmission mean?

The Department of Education determines levels of community transmission in each county based on the incidence rate of COVID-19 per every 100,000 residents. The measurements are based on calculations from the White House Coronavirus Task Force and help determine recommendations for local school districts.

Level of Community Transmission in the CountyIncidence Rate per 100,000 Residents (Most Recent 7 Days)AND/ORPCR Percent Positivity (Most Recent 7 Days)Recommended Instructional Models
Low<10​AND<5%Full in-person Model OR Blended Learning Model
Moderate10 to <100OR5% to <10%Blended Learning Model OR Full Remote Learning Model
Substantial≥100​OR≥10%Full Remote Learning Model
Source: Pennsylvania Department of Education

Schools are recommended to change their instruction model if the transmission level in their county remains the same for two weeks. For example, if a county is considered to ‘substantial’ community spread, it is not necessary that all districts within that county will move to full remote learning. Instead, those districts should watch the transmission table and community with the department to determine their best course of action.