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Important update: Healthcare facilities
CDC has updated select ways to operate healthcare systems effectively in response to COVID-19 vaccination. Learn more
To maximize protection from the Delta variant and prevent possibly spreading it to others, get vaccinated as soon as you can and wear a mask indoors in public if you are in an area of substantial or high transmission.
Given new evidence on the B.1.617.2 (Delta) variant, CDC has updated the guidance for fully vaccinated people. CDC recommends universal indoor masking for all teachers, staff, students, and visitors to K-12 schools, regardless of vaccination status. Children should return to full-time in-person learning in the fall with layered prevention strategies in place.

What to Do if a Student Becomes Sick or Reports a New COVID-19 Diagnosis at School1

What to Do if a Student Becomes Sick or Reports a New COVID-19 Diagnosis at School1
flowchart - What to do if a Student Becomes Sick or Reports a New COVID-19 Diagnosis at School

  • Student(s) shows signs of infectious illness consistent with COVID-19.2
  • Teacher or staff excuses student(s) from classroom, cohort or area within the school. Alert the COVID-19 POC. If masking is not required at the school, provide student with mask as soon as possible.
  • COVID-19 POC takes student(s) to isolation room/area and ensures student(s) is properly supervised and masked. The parent, guardian, or caregiver is called. Arrangements are made for student(s) to either go home or seek emergency medical attention3. Note: If multiple ill students must be placed in the same isolation room/area, ensure mask use and stay at least 6 feet apart while supervised.
  • Parent, guardian, or caregiver picks up student(s). Parent, guardian, or caregiver contacts healthcare provider for evaluation and possible COVID-19 test. Note: If a school does not have a routine screening testing program, the ability to do rapid testing on site could facilitate COVID-19 diagnosis and inform the need for quarantine of close contacts and isolation.
  • Clean and disinfect areas that the ill student(s) occupied. Ventilate the area(s), wait as long as possible before cleaning to let virus particles settle (at least several hours), and use personal protective equipment (including any protection needed for the cleaning and disinfection products) to reduce risk of infection.

Student negative COVID-19 test result.4

  • Student(s) return to school following existing school illness management policies.

Student positive COVID-19 test result.

  • Student(s) found to have COVID-19 and begins home isolation.
  • COVID-19 POC starts a list of close contacts of the ill student(s) and informs staff, parents, guardians, or caregivers of close contacts of possible exposure5.
  • COVID-19 POC works with local health officials to assess spread and support follow up with staff, parents, guardians, or caregivers of student(s) that had contact with the ill student(s).6
  • Parents, guardians, or caregivers of close contacts are advised to keep their children home (quarantine according to local health department requirements) and to consult with the student(s)’ healthcare provider for evaluation and possible COVID-19 test7.
  • Members of the ill student(s)’ household and staff who had close contact with the student are advised to quarantine according to local health department requirements7.
  • The ill student(s) can return to school and end isolation once the following are met:
    • 10 days out from the start of the symptoms, AND
    • Fever free for 24 hours without fever reducing medication, AND
    • Symptoms have improved.


Note: COVID-19 POC = the designated point of contact (a staff person that is responsible for responding to COVID-19 concerns, such as director)

1 Scenario based on geographic area with community transmission of SARS-COV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.

2 The most common symptoms of COVID-19 in children include fever or chills, cough, nasal congestion or runny nose, new loss of taste or smell, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, diarrhea or vomiting, stomachache, tiredness, headache, muscle or body aches, and poor appetite or poor feeding (especially in babies under 1 year old).

3 Schools that do not have a universal mask requirement could require masking by students, teachers, and staff if they are experiencing onset of upper respiratory infection symptoms at school while waiting to be picked up or leave the school.

4 With no known close contact.

5 Close contact is defined as someone who was within 6 feet for a total of 15 minutes or more within 2 days prior to illness onset,regardless of whether the contact was wearing a mask. See exception in the definition for the exclusion of students in the K-12 indoor classroom:

6 To the extent allowable by applicable laws regarding privacy.

7 CDC guidance provides that people who are fully vaccinated and do not have COVID-19 symptoms do not need to quarantine, but should get tested after an exposure to someone with COVID-19.