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Updated May 13, 2022: Added glossary.

Link/share this page at kingcounty.gov/covid/schools/faq

Glossary

 Select an entry below to view definition

A close contact is someone who is less than 6 feet away from an infected person for 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period

For example, three 5-minute exposures for a total of 15 minutes.

Isolation means staying separate from all people who don’t have COVID-19, even within your home.

Quarantine means staying at home with no visitors, away from people outside your home. Do not go to work, school, or public areas. If possible, stay away from people in your household who are at high risk for COVID-19 (unvaccinated, older people, or those with medical conditions).

You are considered up-to-date when you have completed your initial series of vaccinations (2 doses of Pfizer or Moderna, 1 dose of Johnson & Johnson) and all recommended booster shots that you are eligible for. When you are up-to-date, you get the maximum protection available. Some people with weakened immune systems will need more doses to be up-to-date.

Read the latest information and updates from the CDC.

General questions

As of March 12, 2022, masks are no longer required universally in schools or child care. However, schools/school districts and child care facilities may choose to require children/students, teachers, and visitors to wear masks even though the mask mandate ended. Any individual, at any time, may choose to wear a mask even where it is not required. Schools and child care programs should support and respect any individual who chooses to wear a mask.

No, only a person with COVID-19 symptoms needs to be sent home. A person who has a sibling or other household member with COVID-19 symptoms at school or child care does not need to be sent home if they do not have symptoms. Any student, child, or staff who reports or exhibits COVID-19-like symptoms is required to be immediately isolated from others, sent home, and referred to COVID-19 testing as soon as possible, regardless of vaccination status.

Students, children and staff are no longer required to quarantine after a potential exposure.

Regardless of vaccination status, students, children, and staff who were potentially exposed to someone who has COVID-19 should be encouraged to:

  • Monitor for symptoms AND;
  • Consider wearing a well-fitted mask (if age appropriate) for 10 days after the last date of exposure, especially during activities like high-risk indoor sports, performing arts, etc. AND;
  • Get tested 3-5 days after their last exposure. PCR and at-home antigen tests are acceptable. If they test positive, they must isolate.
    • For individuals who have been recently infected with COVID-19 virus (within the past 90 days), antigen testing is recommended because PCR results often remain positive after a person is no longer contagious. Make sure you follow the instructions on the test kit.

After testing positive for COVID-19, the person must stay home and isolate, regardless of vaccination status. They can return to school, child care, and activities after five days have passed since symptoms first appeared OR date of positive test (whichever was first) if:

  1. They are fever-free for the past 24 hours (without medication) AND
  2. Their symptoms have significantly improved AND

IF returning to school/care days 6-10, the individual is required to:

  1. Wear a well-fitting mask or face shield with a drape during days 6-10 of their isolation period, consistent with CDC guidance, OR
  2. Test negative with an antigen or at-home test any day after day 5 before returning without a mask. Testing after day 10 is not necessary.

If they cannot wear a mask or face shield with a drape AND do not test negative after day five, they must continue isolating at home for 10 days.

Yes, according to the DOH “What to do if You Receive an Exposure Notification or are Identified as a Close Contact” flowchart, the student/child/staff member can continue to come to school or child care.

They should:

  • Monitor for symptoms for 10 days after the last exposure* to the household member who tests positive for COVID-19,
  • Consider wearing a well-fitting mask for 10 days after exposure (if age appropriate), and
  • Consider getting tested three to five days after exposure.

*If a household member tests positive, they are considered contagious for at least 5 full days after symptom onset or date of their positive test, whichever was first. If the household member is not able to isolate themself from others, the last date of exposure for the student/child/staff member is 5 days after the household member began showing symptoms or tested positive for COVID-19 (whichever was first).

*If the household member is able to isolate themself, the last date of exposure for the student/child/staff member is the last day they had contact with the household member.

In this scenario, the household member is the close contact of the person with COVID-19, not the student/child/staff member themself, so yes, the student/child/staff member can continue to come to school or child care. However, anyone with symptoms should isolate (stay home from school, work, etc.) and get tested for COVID-19.

School districts and child care facilities can treat potential COVID-19 exposure during or after travel in the same way they treat potential exposure in other circumstances. This means the student/child/staff member can continue to attend school, child care, and other activities following domestic or international travel. Anyone who develops symptoms, however, should isolate (stay home from school, work, etc.) and get tested for COVID-19.

N95, KN95, or KF94 masks provide the best protection. Just recently, several brands of KN95 masks for children have come on the market. These masks offer a high level of filtration and a snug fit on smaller faces. When considering masks for kids, they need the best fitting mask they can wear comfortably all day. Project N95 is one source for child masks. Parents should look for the same qualities in kids’ masks that they do in adult masks: good fit and good filtration.

The decision to continue masking in school or child care is a personal choice, and you are the best person to make these types of decisions for your child and family. Have an open conversation with your child and support them as they talk about their perspectives about wearing masks. Here are some questions that may be helpful to ask your child:

  • How does it feel to see other kids with or without a mask?
  • What has been helpful or hard about wearing masks?
  • How can you respond to peer pressure?
  • What can we all do to prevent bullying about masks?

Assess the health risks and priorities within your family including whether your child or family members are immunocompromised or have conditions that put them at higher risk for severe COVID-19 disease. It may be helpful to check current rates of transmission in your area, and to consider. A conversation with your child's pediatrician or your health care provider may help assess the risk. If you don't have a provider, Public Health's access and outreach program (1-800-756-5437) can help connect you to medical providers and health insurance options.

Although masking is no longer required by the State or County, using multiple layers of protection in schools and child cares are important ways to reduce the risk of transmission, and families can continue to mask based on their personal preferences. Within the school setting, this includes vaccination of staff, ensuring access to testing, and supporting staff and students to stay home when sick. Continued masking and layered prevention measures may also help reduce risk for immunocompromised classmates, family, or community members. And one of the most important ways to reduce risk for the entire school community is through high rates of community vaccination.

King County encourages schools and child care programs to accept results from all FDA- approved COVID-19 tests. There are two categories of approved tests: Molecular (PCR/NAAT) or rapid antigen (at-home) tests.

If accepting an at-home test, a written, electronic or verbal attestation of the test result are acceptable means for verifying test results.

Your school or child care provider may have a policy for documentation of a negative COVID-19 result before returning to child care. Please check with them before choosing which COVID-19 test to use.

For more information about FDA approved COVID-19 tests, and a list of free testing sites, visit kingcounty.gov/covid/sites.

Good ventilation and filtration are achieved by increasing the intake of outdoor air as much as possible and/or through effective air filtration. These approaches reduce airborne transmission of viruses by decreasing the number of viral particles that accumulate in indoor air.

Good ventilation and indoor air quality are important in reducing airborne exposure to viruses, including the virus that causes COVID-19. However, school and child care buildings across King County vary in building design, building age, Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning (HVAC) systems, and their ability to provide adequate ventilation and air filtration.

See Indoor Air Considerations for Schools and Child Care Settings for a detailed checklist on how to improve ventilation in schools. Additional guidance can be found on the Improving indoor air web page.

When HVAC ventilation and filtration cannot be updated or does not exist, there may be other options to improve ventilation and indoor air filtration. Because each school building's existing ventilation system is different, your school's or district's professional engineer or HVAC specialist should be consulted to determine the best way to maximize the system's ventilation and air filtration capabilities for each specific room in the school. Detailed guidance can be found in CDC's guidance for improving ventilation and increasing filtration in schools.

Additional resources

They may return to school or child care and after receiving the vaccine, IF:

  • They feel well enough and are willing to perform normal activities such as work AND
  • They do not have a fever AND
  • Their signs and symptoms are limited only to those observed following COVID-19 vaccination (see list of symptoms, including pain, swelling, tiredness, chills, headache) AND
  • They do not have other signs and symptoms of COVID-19, such as cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, muscle or body aches, or change in sense of smell or taste.

NOTE: If the newly vaccinated individual is a close contact of someone with COVID-19 and they develop COVID-like illness symptoms, they should be tested for COVID-19.

Additional Resources:

The Centers for Disease Control looks at the combination of three metrics — total new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 in the past seven days, new COVID-19 hospital admissions per 100,000 population in the past seven days, and the percent of staffed inpatient beds occupied by COVID-19 patients. Data on new cases acts as an early warning indicator of potential increases in health system strain in the event of a COVID-19 surge.

Using these data, the COVID-19 community level is classified as low, medium, or high. Data on these indicators are tracked and published weekly on our COVID-19 community level dashboard. This dashboard shows the current COVID-19 community level for King County. The three metrics which determine the level (low, medium, or high) are: total new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 in the past seven days, new COVID-19 admissions per 100,000 population in the past seven days, and the percent of staffed inpatient beds occupied by COVID-19 patients. This COVID-19 community level dashboard reflects the CDC's recommended categories (as of February 25, 2022) for COVID-19 prevalence. This page replaces the 'Key Indicators' data dashboard.

The Public Health COVID-19 Summary dashboard shares data on cases and transmission in King County. The data is available by age and region (including city and zip code), but it does not specify high-risk categories, such as people with certain disabilities.

Data on current vaccination rate is also available by zip code on the COVID-19 Vaccination Summary data dashboard. This dashboard shows how many people have been vaccinated for COVID-19 and progress towards equitable vaccine delivery across all racial and ethnic groups and regions of the county.

Questions about K-12 schools

Physical distancing should not prevent a school or child care facility from offering full-time, in-person learning to all students/families, nor should it prevent a provider from providing care. Schools and child care should choose strategies to increase physical distancing that will work for their setting in the space available. There may be moments, such as passing by others in the hallway or during play at recess when students and children are not fully physically distanced from each other. Maximize opportunities to increase physical space between students and children to the degree possible during all scheduled activities and limit interactions in large group settings.

When possible, maximize distance during activities where increased exhalation occurs. Examples of these activities include eating in the cafeteria, in common areas outside of the classroom, and during singing, shouting, band practice, or PE. These activities should be moved outdoors or to large, well-ventilated spaces whenever possible.

A student’s health screening information, COVID-19 test results, and other related information collected by or reported to a school is considered Personally Identifiable Information (PII) and is protected under FERPA as part of the educational record.

For information about disclosure of FERPA-covered PII during the COVID-19 pandemic for purposes such as contact tracing in schools, please refer to the FERPA and Coronavirus Disease 19 (COVID-19) Frequently Asked Questions resource from the United State Department of Education.

Staff are required to be notified of exposure following the requirements in Washington Adminstrative Code (WAC) 296-62-600. In addition, schools and providers are required to directly notify any student who has been identified as immunocompromised, medically fragile, or otherwise at high risk for severe COVID-19 of potential exposure. Notification should be provided to all employees and high risk individuals, irrespective of their vaccination status or recent infection within the past 90 days.

For the rest of the general school and youth-serving population, schools and providers are required to have a process in place to inform students, children, families, and staff when there are cases or outbreaks in the school. Use communications in the language that families can understand. Always and when resources are limited, concentrate notification efforts to inform medically fragile students, children, families, and staff, including any others at high risk.

No. There are not currently any established metrics or thresholds upon which the state would recommend a return to remote learning.

The final decision on school closings lies with the districts themselves. Public Health – Seattle & King County investigates outbreaks and advises schools/school districts on how to prevent or contain them. Closure decisions may be made in collaboration with PHSKC. School administrators consider several factors into account if a closure is being considered:

  • How many people were exposed?
  • How many cases have been identified and in how many classrooms?
  • What proportion of children/students and staff are up to date on vaccinations?
  • Does the program have enough staff to safely operate (maintain ratios, have subs, etc.)?
  • Do classes, practices or other school activities need to be canceled due to this outbreak?

Communication between districts and Public Health can help prevent a single case from quickly spreading through an entire school. The goal is to make cautious decisions about safety without taking steps that are unnecessarily restrictive.

There are some safer wipes with shorter “dwell times” on the SF safer site; however, Washington State Department of Health does not recommend using disinfecting wipes of any kind for children under 18 years old.

In addition, Department of Health and others caution on the use of products with Thymol. Although considered to be a safer option, thymol-based products may cause kids with allergies to experience reactions like rashes and/or asthma attacks. Also, there is concern that people could develop sensitivities to it over time that could lead to the development of food allergies since it is derived from the herb, thyme. One way to minimize residue on hands is to use a towel or microfiber cloth to wipe desks after spraying them.

Washington State Department of Health does not recommend the use of any disinfecting wipes by kids of any age. Department of Health guidance is: Keep all chemicals out of reach of children. Children under 18 years of age cannot use EPA registered sanitizers and disinfectants.

Exposure to these chemicals is a concern, even for the older kids because they are still going through important developmental stages and have higher metabolisms than adults. Exposure to disinfectant chemicals is increased in situations where kids cannot wash their hands after using wipes.

Questions about child care and early learning programs

Reporting:

  • Continue to report confirmed cases to Public Health – Seattle & King County (PHSKC), your local health jurisdiction:
    • Notify PHSKC by calling the COVID-19 Call Center at 206-477-3977 between 8 a.m. through 7 p.m. (available seven days/week). Identify yourself as a child care provider. Interpreters are available.
    • OR complete a COVID-19 Intake Survey. PHSKC will respond with an email or phone call.
  • The Washington Administrative Code (WAC) also requires you to report to your Washington State Department of Children, Youth, and Families (DCYF) licensor each time there is a positive case in your facility.

Notifying families:

  • Per the child care and early learning WAC, families need to be notified (just as is the case for other contagious illnesses, such as chickenpox).

Public Health – Seattle & King County (PHSKC) monitors reported cases in child care and early learning programs, investigates outbreaks and advises child care and early learning programs on how to prevent or contain them. There are several factors to take into account if a closure is being considered:

  • How many people were exposed?
  • How many cases have been identified and in how many classrooms?
  • What proportion of children/students and staff are up to date on vaccinations?
  • Does the program have enough staff to safely operate (maintain ratios, have subs, etc.)?

Closure decisions may be made in collaboration with PHSKC.

If you have any questions, please contact the COVID-19 Call Center at 206-477-3977 between 8 a.m. and 7 p.m. (available every day). When you call, identify yourself as a child care provider so your question can be directed to the appropriate person or program for a response. Interpreters are available. You can also email your questions directly to the Child Care Health Program at cchc.support@kingcounty.gov.


Link/share our site at kingcounty.gov/covid/schools/faq