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DOH Releases Updated Guidelines As Students Prepare to Return to Classrooms

July 28, 2021, 8:30 AM HST
* Updated July 28, 8:17 AM
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The Hawai’i Department of Health (DOH) released updated COVID-19 Guidance for schools as students return to in-person learning next month for the 2021-22 school year.

Schools closed to in-person instruction after the pandemic hit in March 2020. This past 2020-21 school year, schools statewide implemented distance learning programs and eventually incorporated some in-person learning.

Now, as COVID-19 cases continue to rise with the spread of the Delta variant, the DOH has announced core essential strategies and additional mitigation practices required students to return to the classroom.

Click here to read the updated guidelines.

“This update comes at a time when we are emphasizing the return to in-person learning for K-12 schools,” said Acting State Epidemiologist Dr. Sarah Kemble. “As the science related to COVID-19 mitigation practices has grown, we have more tools to ensure schools are as safe for our students as possible. Implementing multiple mitigation strategies consistently and in combination gives schools the flexibility to achieve safe learning environments.”

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The first strategy is promoting all staff and eligible students 12 years of age and older to get the vaccine.

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“Achieving full COVID-19 vaccination among eligible students as well as teachers, staff, and household members is one of the most critical strategies to help schools safely resume full in-person operations,” DOH officials stated.

DOH also directs school staff and students to stay home when sick, masks must always be worn correctly and consistently by all students and staff when indoors and everyone should wash hands with soap for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water aren’t available, hand sanitizer containing at least 60% alcohol is acceptable.

Mitigation practices, such as designated cohorts, improving ventilation, physical distancing, screening testing, and cleaning and disinfection should be applied in combination to the greatest extent possible to maintain safe school operations.

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The DOH is lifting the requirement for a negative COVID-19 test or a clinician’s note to return to school after completing isolation and quarantine. According to the guidelines, schools should consider screening testing for all students who have not been fully vaccinated when community transmission is at moderate, substantial, or high levels.

See chart below:

Schools should consider screening testing for all teachers and staff who have not been fully vaccinated regardless of community transmission level.

The guidance is adapted from the CDC’s Guidance for COVID-19 Prevention in K-12 Schools and is subject to change as new information regarding the COVID-19 pandemic becomes available.

It was developed by DOH in collaboration with the American Academy of Pediatrics, Hawai’i Chapter; Hawai’i Department of Education; Hawai’i Association of Independent Schools; Hawai’i Catholic Schools; Hawai’i Keiki Nurses; Hawai’i State Public Charter Schools Commission; and the Kaua’i District Health Office.

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