The NC Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS) released this afternoon an updated StrongSchools NC Public Health Toolkit taking effect February 21, that will provide schools with greater flexibility in regard to contact tracing and student/staff exclusion procedures. State Health Director Dr. Elizabeth Tilson shared the following changes during a webinar for superintendents this afternoon, and reiterated these changes in a NCDHHS press release shared after the webinar:
Individual contact tracing will no longer be recommended, but schools should still notify potentially exposed students and staff. Schools can choose to notify those who may have been exposed in three ways: (1) Individual Level, or all individuals who were within 6 feet for at least 15 minutes of someone testing positive; (2) Group Level, such as all individuals in a single classroom or athletic team; or School Level, or all individuals within a single school.
Exclusion For Asymptomatic Exposures
Exclusion of asymptomatic students and/or staff following exposure to an individual testing positive for COVID-19 will no longer be recommended. This change will apply regardless of the exposure source, individual vaccination status, or school mask requirement status. Those testing positive for COVID should still follow quarantine policies, and all exposed individuals should still wear a mask for at least 10 days after exposure.
Dr. Tilson stated these changes have been shared with local health directors as well, and noted local officials, schools, and districts can still adopt more restrictive policies than those recommended in the Toolkit. Additionally, these changes do not affect the ongoing legislative requirement for local school boards to vote monthly on face covering policies. To access a recording of the webinar and chat transcript, please see the recent memo from the NC Department of Public Instruction.