On January 7, the Texas Education Agency announced new public health guidance in response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. TEA’s guidance impacts various aspects of public education’s operations for educators and staff, such as on-campus instruction and UIL extracurricular activities.
For educators who test positive for COVID-19, who are showing symptoms of the virus, or who have had close contacts with infected persons, the updated public health guidance suggests that they can return to work following five days of isolation on the following conditions:
• If symptomatic, at least five days have passed since symptom onset, and fever free, and other symptoms have improved. (Fever free for 24 hours without the use of fever suppressing medications. Fever is a temperature of 100° Fahrenheit—37.8° Celsius—or higher.)
• For those with no symptoms, at least five days after the day they tested positive.
These guidelines apply to all school employees. The guidance also outlines that teachers and staff who believe they were exposed to the virus need not isolate or quarantine if they are:
• Age 18 or older and have received all recommended vaccine doses, including boosters and additional primary shots for some immunocompromised people.
• Confirmed COVID-19 positive within the last 90 days and has fully recovered.
In particular, schools are not required to conduct COVID-19 investigations (e.g., contract tracing) for students who have been exposed to the virus. However, schools do have jurisdiction to comply with local public health authorities who wish to investigate individual exposures and potential outbreaks of the virus in schools. The new guidelines also give parents the liberty to keep their children for the stated five-day isolation period if they feel as though their child was exposed to the virus at school, whether they are symptomatic or not. Schools may also have the ability to deliver distance learning options for students who are isolated following exposure to the virus.
TEA updated its public health guidelines to follow CDC recommendations released in late December.