If one or two students or teachers are diagnosed with coronavirus in a classroom in New Jersey, all persons he or she approached at school may be required to stay home for 14 days, according to the new state guidelines.
But if two people in different classes get sick, the whole school can be closed.
The State Department of Health released 19 pages of new health rules for schools Thursday as districts in New Jersey prepare to reopen classroom schools within persons for the first time since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.
Many public school officials have been seeking clearer health guidance from the state since June, when the school̵7;s initial 104-page reopening school plan said decisions about when and if to close schools when people fell ill would be largely left to chance. school leaders and local health officials.
The new guidelines include more specific rules on how schools should handle positive COVID-19 cases, when they should ask students in individual classes to quarantine, and when all schools should close and switch to teaching. in distance. The rules are meant to be general guidelines, the state said, and districts may choose to develop stricter rules.
The new guidelines also detail a color-coded coronavirus tracking system first discovered by state officials on Wednesday that divides the state into six regions. If the virus rate and health records in any region become too high, the state could tell all schools in that region to close their buildings, state officials said.
“Realizing that COVID-19 may affect some areas of the state differently, the department will provide data from six regions of the state to inform local decisions,” said State Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli.
According to the new instructions:
– If a teacher or student at a school has a confirmed COVID-19 case, the school may remain open. But anyone who has come close to school will be asked to quarantine at home. “Students and staff in close contact with positive issues are expelled from school for 14 days,” the rules say.
– If two people in the same class get sick, the school may remain open. But everyone in the class can be asked to quarantine. “Recommendations whether the whole class would be considered exposed will be based on the public health investigation,” the guidelines say.
– If two or more people in different classes have confirmed COVID-19 cases within 14 days at the same school, this becomes more complicated. The whole school could be closed if “a clear link between the cases or a suspected or confirmed case of COVID-19 cannot be easily identified,” the recommendations say.
The new guidelines were published as nearly 600 public school districts in New Jersey are submitting their plans for reopening to the state Department of Education for approval.
Gov. Phil Murphy initially asked all schools to offer at least some classes within persons. But on Wednesday, state guidelines were modified to allow school districts to start the school year with only remote home lessons if officials felt they could not open up to security measures in place.
Most schools originally planned to open with hybrid plans, combining several days of in-person instruction each week with distance learning at home. Students are expected to wear masks and classes should either have desks six feet away or install barriers between students.
All students in each district also have the option of choosing a distance learning plan, even if their school is offering in-person classes.
Last March, Murphy ordered all public and private schools to close and switch to distance learning at the start of the pandemic.
This year, New Jersey officials said they would take a regional approach to tracking health records to help determine if schools should remain open.
Under the new guidelines, the state will be divided into a COVID-19 Regional Regional Risk Matrix with six regions:
– northwest: Morris, Passaic, Sussex, Warren
– Northeast: Bergen, Essex, Hudson
– West West: Hunterdon, Mercer, Somerset
– Central East: Middlesex, Monmouth, Ocean, Union
– Southwest: Burlington, Camden, Gloucester, Salem
– Southeast: Atlantic, Cape May, Cumberland
Each region will be assigned a color (green, yellow, orange, or red) each week based on the risk of the virus in the area.
“When a region falls into the color coding categories, it is based on three criteria: the number of cases over the past week, the percentage positivity for the past week, and the syndromic surveillance over the past week,” the state health department said.
If a region is labeled red, each district must switch to remote lessons and closed school buildings. If it is orange, the schools of the regions should also switch to distance learning if they cannot guarantee that they adhere to all the preventive measures to prevent the spread of the virus, the guidelines say.
The health instruction also states that schools should move choir and music classes, if possible; allow the use of masks, not clear face shields, in schools; and sanitize desks, countertops, doorknobs, computer keyboards and practical surfaces “at least every day”.
Guidelines include sample forms, school districts should ask parents to complete each day to say they have checked their children for a list of coronavirus symptoms before sending them to school. There are additional letters to send home to student families if there are COVID-19 cases in their classroom or school.
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