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All people in Washington state age 12 and older are eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. Learn how to get vaccinated in King County, read more about vaccination for youth, and view Public Health's Vaccine Strategy.


Updated May 25, 2021: Added general question #6.

General questions

The child with symptoms should be isolated and sent home as soon as possible. Caregivers of the sick child should contact their medical provider and get the child tested for COVID-19 as soon as possible. Siblings who are not exhibiting symptoms do not need to be quarantined or sent home at that time. The siblings can continue to attend school or child care but should monitor their health. If any symptoms arise in the siblings, they should also stay home and their caregivers should contact a healthcare provider.

If the original sick child tests positive for COVID-19, that child must stay home and isolate. At that time all household members, including the siblings, would be considered close contacts and must also quarantine (stay home, not go to work, school or child care). If they are fully vaccinated, they may not need to quarantine.

The Return to School Following Illness Exposure Guidance in the King County Schools COVID-19 Response Toolkit along with this infographic can help people calculate the isolation and quarantine periods for all household members. Child care programs can find more information in our Guidance for child care administrators.

The student/staff does not have to stay home from child care or school as long as they are not close contacts of the confirmed COVID-19 case. However, the household member who is the close contact of the confirmed COVID-19 case should quarantined. The Return to School Following Illness Exposure Guidance in the King County Schools COVID-19 Response Toolkit along with this infographic can help people calculate the isolation and quarantine periods for all household members. Child care programs can find more information in our Guidance for child care administrators.

If the household member who is the close contact becomes symptomatic and/or tests positive for COVID-19, the student/staff would need to stay home from child care or school and begin to quarantine.

Anyone with symptoms should isolate and call a medical provider to get tested.

Neither the child/staff nor the household member need to quarantine since the household member is not considered a close contact of the confirmed COVID-19 case. The exception would be if the household member or child/staff have symptoms of COVID-19. Anyone with symptoms should isolate and call a medical provider.

Yes, children and staff sharing a household with someone with COVID-like symptoms may attend child care or school. They should monitor themselves for symptoms and, if they become sick, stay home. If their household member tests positive for COVID-19, the student or staff should stay home and also get tested.

Details about how to determine the duration of isolation and quarantine periods are available in our King County Schools COVID-19 Response Toolkit (page 9, section C.) This information is also available in the Return to School Following Illness Exposure Guidance in the toolkit. Child care programs can find more information in our Guidance for child care administrators.

Requiring tests: At this time, there is no recommendation from Public Health—Seattle & King County (PHSKC), the Washington State Department of Health (DOH), nor the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for schools to require a COVID-19 test for symptomatic children or staff. Anyone who has COVID-19 symptoms or close contact with someone who has COVID-19 should be tested right away. Schools and child cares are not disallowed from implementing more stringent health and safety requirements than those outlined by PHSKC, DOH, or CDC. However, we caution schools and child cares to consider the potential equity impacts of additional requirements such as requiring testing for students, staff, and families who may struggle to access health care.

  • Symptomatic students and staff who test negative for COVID-19 must remain home (isolate) for at least 24 hours after fever has resolved and symptoms have improved.
    • Ill students and staff who get tested should be encouraged to retain documentation of their test results.
  • Symptomatic students and staff who do not get a COVID-19 test must remain home (isolate) for at least 24 hours after fever has resolved and 10 days since symptoms began and symptoms have improved.

Details about how to determine the duration of isolation and quarantine periods are available in our King County Schools COVID-19 Response Toolkit (page 9, section B.) This information is also available in the Return to School Following Illness Exposure Guidance in the toolkit. This is also available in our Guidance for child care administrators.

Yes, both vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals should wear masks in school, child care and day camp settings. Washington State mask requirements and County mask requirements have changed, but exclude school and child care from the changes. Everyone 5 and older should wear masks and children 2-4 are encouraged to wear masks.

Questions about schools

Information is available in the King County Schools COVID-19 Response Toolkit. This toolkit outlines the steps schools should take if there is a suspected or confirmed case of COVID-19 within their school community.

The toolkit includes guides and templates for communicating with school staff and families. Notification letter templates, fact sheets, contact tracing lists, and other materials are available. Resources are translated into multiple languages.

We update resources in the toolkit based on the needs of the community and as COVID-19 restrictions change.

The Department of Health defines high community transmission as COVID-19 case rate of greater than 200 cases per 100,000 population over 14 days or when test positivity is greater than 10%. Data changes daily but looking over a two-week period is a better indicator of the transmission rate. Instead of daily checks, use 2-week periods to determine your community's transmission rate.

Data on these indicators is tracked and published daily on our Key Indicators dashboard. Community case rates and test positivity are available by county on the Governor’s Risk Assessment Dashboard and the DOH Data Dashboard.

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

Schools can practice physical distancing of at least three feet between students within groups and in classrooms as much as possible. In certain circumstances, at least six feet of distance must be maintained:

  • Between staff in the school building
  • Between adults and students
  • For all staff and students:
    • In common areas, such as auditoriums
    • When masks can't be worn, such as when eating
    • During activities when increased exhalation occurs, such as singing, shouting, band practice, or physical education. These activities should be moved outdoors or to large, well-ventilated spaces whenever possible.

In areas with high community transmission, CDC and DOH recommend that middle and high school students use cohorting (grouping students) and at least three feet of distance between students or at least six feet of physical distance between students if cohorting is not possible. CDC defines high community transmission as COVID-19 case rate of greater than 200 cases per 100,000 population over 14 days or test positivity is greater than 10%. Community case rates and test positivity are available by county on the Governor's Risk Assessment Dashboard and DOH Data Dashboard.

Create cohorts or groups of students with dedicated staff who remain together throughout the day, at recess and lunch time. These groups should remain consistent from day to day andshould not be combined or mixed. Staying in small groups limits the amount of contactbetween individuals. Reducing the mixing of students, teachers and staff through groups:

  • Decreases the opportunities for exposure or transmission of COVID at school.
  • Makes contact tracing easier in the event of a positive case.
  • Simplifies the testing, quarantine and isolation to a single cohort.

Consider block schedules to minimize mixing among students. Assign seating in classrooms for all students so those in close contact with COVID-19 cases can be quickly identified. Multiple groups of students may use the same facility as long as they are in limited contact with and physically distanced from other groups. When needed, divide large spaces like full-size gyms, playgrounds, or sports fields into separate areas for different cohorts or small groups. Create a barrier with equipment such as cones, chairs, or tables to maintain separation between groups.

Practice physical distancing of at least three feet or more between students within groups and in classrooms as much as possible. In certain circumstances (described below), students must still maintain six feet of distance. Staff should continue to maintain six feet of physical distance from other staff and students in classrooms and otherwise.

Create space between students and reduce the amount of time they are close with each other. Your ability to do this will depend on students' ages and developmental and physical abilities. Select strategies to increase physical distancing that will work for your school and the space available. Maintaining at least three feet of distance is most important when students or staff will be engaged in something for more than a few minutes, like during class or reading or quiet time. There may be brief moments, such as passing by others in the hallway or during play at recess when students are not fully physically distanced from each other. Not all strategies will be feasible for all schools. Consider all opportunities to increase physical space between students during all scheduled activities while limiting interactions in large group settings.

  • At least six feet of distance must be maintained for the following circumstances:
  • Between staff in the school building and between adults and students.
  • For all staff and students:
    • In common areas, such as auditoriums.
    • When masks can't be worn, such as when eating.
    • During activities when increased exhalation occurs, such as singing, shouting, band practice, or physical education. These activities should be moved outdoors or to large, well-ventilated spaces whenever possible.

In areas with high community transmission, CDC and DOH recommend that middle and high school students use cohorting (grouping students) and at least three feet of distance between students or at least six feet of physical distance between students if cohorting is not possible. CDC defines high community transmission as COVID-19 case rate of greater than 200 cases per 100,000 population over 14 days or test positivity is greater than 10%. Community case rates and test positivity are available by county on the Governor's Risk Assessment Dashboard and DOH Data Dashboard.

Cloth face coverings or masks are required for staff and students in all indoor public spaces, with specific exceptions based on age, development, or disability. Learn more about the statewide requirement to wear face coverings.

Masks should be made of two or more layers of tightly woven fabric and can be worn over a medical procedure mask to improve fit. DOH does not recommend masks with exhalation valves, single layer bandanas, or gaiters. 

The Washington State Department of Health also provides updated guidance to help inform schools how to resume in-person instruction.

If you are planning on offering extracurricular activities, must follow K-12, applicable Safe Start protocols and Governor’s proclamations on COVID-19. Efforts must include:

  • Symptom screening
  • Grouping staff and students into small groups (or "cohorts")
  • Physical distance
  • Face coverings
  • Appropriate hand hygiene, cleaning, & ventilation
Please refer to Washington Interscholastic Activities Association (WIAA) for specific guidance for sport and the Governor’s Sporting Activities Guidance for more information.

Performing arts, such as band, choir, theater, speech/debate and others, have additional requirements that must be considered. Refer to DOH's updated guidance on Performing Arts for the detailed guidance.

While standardized testing is not explicitly named in the Washington State Department of Health’s (DOH) Tools to Prepare for Provision of In-Person Learning among K-12 Students, these guidelines can be applied to these activities. The guidance metrics are offered as a framework and subject to local decision making. With the right protocols in place (e.g., masking, physical distancing, cleaning, etc.) kids should be able to take the test and leave in a timely manner without significant interaction. For schools that are considering hosting standardized testing, an additional resource is the Miscellaneous Venues COVID-19 Requirements from the Governor’s office.

Limit the use of locker rooms to handwashing and restroom use only. Showers should not be used due to potential spread of aerosolized droplets. Consider eliminating requirements to change clothes for PE. If use of locker rooms for changing is necessary, maximize ventilation and use tape, spots or cones to signal 6 feet of distance for students who need to change. Stagger entry to the changing area and use these facilities as appropriate with members of the same group/cohort. Make sure to limit occupancy of the locker rooms to avoid crowding.

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 & Coronavirus Disease 19 (COVID-19) Frequently Asked Questions resource from the United State Department of Education.

King County data on key indicators of COVID-19 activity are only one factor for school/district decision making about providing in-person services. While these data highlight general health indicators in King County as a whole, school and district leaders must make decisions in coordination with staff, community, and other key stakeholders. Other considerations may include but are not limited to:

  • School and district readiness to implement health and safety requirements
  • Community context and city-specific data about COVID-19 transmission
  • Staffing capacity and concerns
  • Ability to quickly and clearly communicate with families

We recognize and appreciate the complexity of operating schools during the COVID-19 pandemic. Schools and communities must make challenging decisions to support student learning and community wellbeing.

Good ventilation and indoor air quality are important in reducing airborne exposure to viruses, including the virus that causes COVID-19. However, school 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.

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.

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.

It is important to continue to follow additional safety measures as ventilation and air filtration are not effective alone:

  • health screenings
  • physical distancing
  • reducing classroom/building occupancy
  • frequent hand washing
  • wearing face coverings
  • implementing appropriate cleaning and disinfection protocols

When HVAC ventilation and filtration cannot be optimized 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

As your school prepares to re-open after a temporary closure, here some actions to prioritize to ensure optimal indoor air quality:

  • Filter upgrade and regular replacements
  • Aim for the highest rated filter possible with your system: MERV 13 or higher is recommended
  • Clogged filters decrease HVAC operation and decrease the ability to improve indoor air quality (IAQ)
  • Inspect, clean, and repair entire systems regularly
  • Reduce recirculation of air and increase/maximize outside air flow
  • Aim for 40-50% relative humidity (RH)
  • Flush rooms/building with outside air prior to occupancy and after, especially while cleaning and disinfection is occurring
  • Install paper towels to dry hands and disconnect hand dryers (blowers)
  • Inspect and maintain local exhaust ventilation in restrooms, kitchens, cooking areas, labs, etc.
  • Restroom exhaust fans should operate at full capacity 24/7
  • Work with building engineer or HVAC specialist to generate air movement that goes from clean-to-less-clean air through positioning of air supply and exhaust air diffusers and/or dampers (especially in higher risk areas such as the nurse's office)

When HVAC ventilation and filtration cannot be optimized 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

Schools planning a spring prom or other dance should follow the COVID-19 guidance for Weddings, Funerals and Events from the Department of Health. The guidance includes capacity limits in addition to distancing, masking and eating and drinking requirements based on the current phase for the county where the school or college or university is located. Please consider the guidelines for multiple phases as you plan your event. Given that the phase status for each county is individually evaluated every three weeks, it is important to consider the guidelines for multiple phases as you plan your event.

Questions about child care and early education

King County guidance for child care providers can be accessed here. The guidance includes advice to prevent the spread of COVID-19, steps to take if someone develops symptoms or is confirmed to have COVID-19, and letter and fact sheet templates for families. Guidance is translated in multiple languages.

The Washington State Dept. of Health created guidance for child care.

Many child care facilities and early learning programs face similar issues as schools during this pandemic. Unlike schools, the state of Washington considers child care to be an essential service. This is because child care gives parents or guardians who have to work a safe place for their children.

According to the Washington State Dept. of Health's child care guidance, families are encouraged to safely keep their children at home first to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

Child care centers usually have fewer children enrolled than schools. They also operate in smaller settings than schools, usually keeping children in the same groups, called “cohorts.” This combination limits potential spread of COVID-19. This set up allows for:

  • Easier management of symptom tracking and daily health monitoring of staff and students, in partnership with parents or guardians
  • Reduced risk of broad disease transmission within the child care setting

Licensed child care centers are also required to meet Washington Administrative Code for cleaning and disinfecting practices. These child care settings have made cleaning and disinfecting a normal part of their daily activities.

In schools, there are many more students and staff interacting throughout the day. For older students, it is nearly impossible to keep them in the same group of students because of different class schedules and grade levels. This increases the risk of community spread.

At this time, child cares and early learning programs are allowed to remain open regardless of whether K-12 education is providing in-person or remote learning. Each individual child care program decides whether to remain open or not.

According to the Governor's order, child care is an essential service. At this time, child care and early learning programs are allowed to remain open regardless of whether K-12 education is providing in-person or remote learning. Each individual child care program decides whether to remain open or not.

The Safe Start Washington Recovery Plan does not address reopening for child care or early learning. However, throughout the pandemic, child care has remained open and may continue to operate.

It depends on the ages of children in the group and your licensing requirements set by DCYF. We advise you to follow the latest Washington State Dept. of Health child care guidance (see pages 6 -7).

If you have any questions, please contact the COVID-19 Call Center at: 206-477-3977. 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.

Questions about cleaning and disinfecting school facilities

In all settings, it is important to reduce children’s exposure to harsh chemicals, including disinfecting wipes and scented hand sanitizers in classrooms. Children at all stages of development are at risk for chemical exposures. Young children have higher metabolism and put their hands in the mouths more, but middle school and high school students are going through major developmental periods like puberty which can make them more vulnerable to chemical exposure.

Soap and water are highly effective against viruses like SARS-CoV-2 and is sufficient for wiping down desks. According to CDC guidance, when there are no confirmed or suspected cases of COVID-19 in a space, cleaning once a day is usually enough to sufficiently remove virus that may be on surfaces and help maintain a healthy facility. Soap and water also have the added benefit of improving air quality, especially at a time when air quality is important for reducing COVID-19 transmission risks. From an economic standpoint, spray bottles with soap and water are more affordable to have in the classrooms than wipes.

Finally, many common wipes used in schools have long dwell times (the time needed for the disinfectant to be wet on the surface for it to be able to kill the virus), which are usually not achieved when used on desks, leading to a false sense of safety. The risks of COVID-19 transmission associated with surfaces is much lower than originally believed. According to CDC guidance, surfaces are not thought to be a common way that COVID-19 spreads. They recommend limiting the use of disinfectants and instead focusing on cleaning, except when a COVID-19 positive case has been in the space within the last 24 hours. Cleaning and disinfection can be increased (and disinfection added) when COVID-19 transmission is high in your community, few people are wearing masks, hand washing is infrequent, or the space is occupied by certain populations, such as people at increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19.

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. The exposure is also compounded in situations where kids cannot wash their hands after using wipes.


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