PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — The School District of Philadelphia will require mask-wearing for at least the first 10 days of the upcoming 2022-23 school year, school officials announced Friday.
All students and staff will be required to mask up from Aug. 29 through Sept. 9, regardless of the number of COVID-19 cases in the city. The district said it is taking this precaution as everyone returns from end-of-summer gatherings, which may heighten the risk of exposure to COVID-19.
After those 10 days, masking will become optional, barring a spike in COVID-19 community transmission. If the rate of community spread is medium, as it is now, masks would then be optional but strongly encouraged. Should the rate rise to high levels, masks would once again be mandatory.
Students who test positive are required to isolate at home for five days and attend classes online. If their symptoms go away after five days, they may return to school, but they’ll have to wear a mask for five more days.
Student-athletes will no longer be required to be vaccinated, but the mandate for staff remains in place.
The protocols apply to the 115,000 students in district schools, but not to charter schools, which are independently run.
The district’s announcement comes a day after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated its nationwide COVID-19 guidance, which drops quarantine and social distancing recommendations.
CBS News’ chief medical correspondent Dr. Jonathan LaPook said one key change could lead to less disruption in the classroom.
The CDC said people should test at Day 5 after exposure, or if symptoms pop up earlier.
The agency also dropped its “test to stay” recommendation, which said students exposed to COVID-19 could regularly test and continue going to school instead of quarantining at home.
The CDC’s latest guidelines will likely impact how schools across the country handle their own policies going forward.
The changes come as officials say 95% of Americans 16 and older have some sort of immunity from vaccination or infection, or both. However, the CDC said people are still high-risk, and many are getting seriously sick or dying, so getting immunized and boosted remains still critical.
This is the third full school year in the pandemic.