COVID-19 and Schools: Return to School Guidance

October 3, 2021 by

Children in Virginia have been back in school for over a month now. While it is great to see so many children deriving the many benefits of an person learning, the coincident delta surge has resulted in a number of pediatric COVID-19 cases. Hence all symptomatic children need to isolate and be tested for COVID-19 before they can return to school. The large portion of  school children who are unvaccinated or not yet eligible for vaccination must quarantine if they come into close contact with someone who has COVID-19 and may also require testing in some cases to help shorten the period they have stay at home. Isolation for COVID-19 infection, staying at home until symptomatic children can be tested and exposures to those with COVID-19 can all lead to loss of valuable educational days.  Schools, health departments, and pediatricians have had to quickly pivot to adjust to the demands around school testing and changes to return to school policies.

To help break it all down, Dr. Emily Wong shares her current guidance on COVID-19 and schools to help both symptomatic and exposed children return safely.

Multiple overlapping mitigation strategies:

  1. Evaluation of symptomatic students

    • Should include assessment of exposures, timelines, and risks in addition to symptoms
    • Any student with symptoms that could be consistent with COVID infection needs to be tested for COVID, regardless of vaccination status
    • Albemarle County and Charlottesville city schools require a negative PCR or a doctor’s note
    • Private schools require a doctor’s note to return; a test result alone is not sufficient.
      • can be modified as needed
      • standardized with all the schools and other pediatric practices
  1. Identification of close contacts

  • Standard definition: within 6 feet of a COVID-infected person for a cumulative 15 minutes in a 24 hour period
  • Exception: within 3-6 feet of a COVID-infected student in a K-12 school setting, when both are observed to be consistently wearing a mask (this now includes a bus with a seating chart and video/driver confirmation of mask use)
  1. Quarantine for unvaccinated asymptomatic close contacts

*** Different from CDC recommendations for general population ***

  • BRHD recommends quarantine for 14 days after last exposure as the safest
  • Quarantine means staying home and no participation in sports or activities, in addition to not attending school
  • Actual quarantine requirements are determined by individual school
  • Charlottesville city schools and private schools continue to require a 14-day quarantine without any testing requirement
  • Albemarle county schools allow a shortened 10-day quarantine without testing requirement
  • Remember that household contacts who cannot be separated in the house cannot return until 14 days after the infectious person ends isolation (could be a total of 24 days)
  1. Vaccinated asymptomatic close contacts do not need to quarantine

  • Continue to wear mask in public
  • Although testing at 3-5 days is suggested, it is not required and does not change return to school

Testing availability limited

  • Testing in the office for symptomatic children
  • Referral to the COVID clinic for symptomatic children
  • Pop up testing at schools being organized by Jeff Vergales

**  Avoid testing of asymptomatic contacts at inappropriate time or if it will not change return to school

  • UVA community testing events on Mon and Tues (might expand)
  • BRHD testing Wed – Fri at JC Penney. Labs now being sent to DCLS (not UVA)

For more information: K-12 Education – K-12 Education – Coronavirus (




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