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Updated September 29, 2021: Added new general question #6.

General questions

Siblings who do not have symptoms do not need to be quarantined or sent home, but a child with symptoms should be isolated, sent home and tested for COVID-19 as soon as possible.

Siblings and other family members of a child with symptoms should monitor their health and, if any symptoms arise, they should stay home from school or child care and be tested for COVID-19 as soon as possible.

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). In some cases, fully vaccinated close contacts 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.

If the student/staff is not a close contact of the confirmed COVID-19 case, they may continue attending school or child care. The household member who is the close contact of the confirmed COVID-19 case should quarantine.

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 (stay home from school, work, etc.) and get tested for COVID-19.

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.

Students and staff sharing a household with someone with COVID-like symptoms may attend child care or school. If their household member tests positive for COVID-19, the student or staff should stay home and also get tested. Anyone with any COVID-like symptoms should stay home and get tested as soon as possible.

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.

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. However, anyone who has COVID-19 symptoms or close contact with someone who has COVID-19 should be tested. Schools must ensure access to timely diagnostic testing among students with symptoms or who are close contacts of someone with COVID-19. Schools and child cares may be eligible to work with community partners to provide more accessible testing for their students and staff. For more information contact schools@healthcommonsproject.org.

  • 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, Washington DOH guidance for schools, child care and daycamp settings continue to require masks for all students and staff, regardless of vaccination status.

Comfort is the most important feature when considering masks for kids. A child needs to be able to wear their mask properly all day long for it to be effective. And kids need to be happy with the design, so they don't take them off.

After comfort, parents should look for the same qualities in kid’s masks that they do in adult masks: good fit and good filtration. Just like high quality adult masks, a kid’s mask should be made of 2-3 fabric layers of tightly woven cotton or cotton blend fabric, and be breathable, snug fitting and without gaps. Just recently, several brands of KN95 kids masks have come on the market. These masks offer a high level of filtration and a snug fit on smaller faces. They are a good option – but only if kids find them comfortable to wear for long periods of time.

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

There is increased risk of transmission with the Delta variant, but students, staff, and families can help to protect each other by getting vaccinations for everyone who is eligible, wearing masks (even for those who are vaccinated) and physically distancing, getting tested and staying home when having symptoms (even when fully vaccinated), and improving ventilation.

Questions about K-12 schools

No. There are not currently any established metrics or thresholds upon which the state would recommend a return to remote learning. However, the Department of Health has stated that “the trajectory of disease prevalence in our state or nation may require changes in our state’s response efforts and DOH will periodically update their guidance to reflect currently accepted safety requirements.”

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 Centers for Disease Control defines high community transmission as COVID-19 case rate of greater than 100 cases per 100,000 population over 7 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 (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.

Schools should practice physical distancing of at least three feet between students within groups and in classrooms as much as possible. Distancing should be maximized to the extent possible 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. While physical distancing should not limit a school's ability to offer in person instruction, schools can utilize resources such as Modifying School Spaces During Mealtimes to increase physical distancing as much as possible during higher transmission activities.

Cohorting (creating cohorts or groups of students with dedicated staff who remain together throughout the day, at recess and lunch time) is no longer required by DOH guidance. However, limiting contact across groups remains an effective strategy to reduce the spread of COVID-19. Schools and child care facilities may choose to continue to use some cohorting, as logistics allow, as one approach in a layered mitigation strategy.

Yes. Cloth face coverings or masks are required for staff and students in all indoor school settings, regardless of vaccination status.

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.

Schools offering extracurricular activities should follow the guidance on the specific activity provided in the DOH K-12 Guidance.

Some of these guidelines may include:

  • Screening testing for athletic participants, coaches, trainers and others who work with student athletes
  • Universal masking in many instances
  • Grouping staff and students into small groups (or "cohorts")
  • Physical distance of 6 feet to the extent possible when not participating in the activity
  • Face coverings
  • Appropriate hand hygiene, cleaning, and ventilation

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.

We don't anticipate that COVID-19 vaccine will be required for public school students this year. School vaccination requirements are determined by the Washington State Board of Health and apply to all public schools. However, getting vaccinations for everyone who is eligible helps to decrease the risk of COVID-19 in our schools and our community.

For times when students cannot wear masks, like when eating lunch, schools should maximize distance between students and hold activities outdoors to the degree possible. Schools should reference the CDC's Modifying School Spaces during Meal Times for strategies to increase distance during meal times.

The final decision on school closings lies with the districts themselves. School administrators consider several factors whenever a case occurs including:

  • How many people were exposed?
  • Were those exposed wearing masks?
  • If vaccine eligible, were those exposed vaccinated?
  • When and where did those exposures occur?
  • How many people need to isolate or quarantine?
  • Do classes, practices or other school activities need to be canceled due to this outbreak?

Public Health – Seattle & King County investigates outbreaks and advises districts on how to prevent or contain them. In light of back to school and the more contagious Delta variant, Public Health is prioritizing additional resources to support schools in their efforts to prevent and contain outbreaks.

The King County school response toolkit is an important resource for schools that provides immediate guidance on how to respond quickly and effectively when COVID-19 cases arise, including notification templates to support school outreach to families and students.

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

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.

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. You can also email your questions directly to the Child Care Health Program at cchc.support@kingcounty.gov.

Questions about cleaning and disinfecting school facilities

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.


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