Updated February 5th, 2022
The Cook County Department of Public Health (CCDPH) continues to endorse the CDC guidance calling for universal masking in all schools. CDC guidance, updated January 12, 2022, continues to recommend “universal indoor masking by all students (ages 2 years and older), staff, teachers, and visitors to K-12 schools, regardless of vaccination status.
In addition to continued universal masking, CCDPH supports the layered mitigation strategy recommended by Illinois Department of Public Health and the Illinois State Board of education in their Joint Guidance for COVID-19 Prevention in Schools, which includes the following recommendations:
- Promote and/or provide COVID-19 immunization for all school personnel and eligible students.
- Facilitate physical distancing. Schools should configure their spaces to provide space for physical distancing to the extent possible in their facilities.
- Implement or provide provisions for COVID-19 diagnostic testing for suspected cases, close contacts, and during outbreaks, as well as screening testing for unvaccinated students according to the CDC’s testing recommendations.
- Improve ventilation to reduce the concentration of potentially virus-containing droplets in schools’ indoor air environments.
- Promote and adhere to hand hygiene and to respiratory etiquette.
- Encourage individuals who are sick to stay home and to get tested for COVID-19.
- Clean and disinfect surfaces in schools to maintain healthy environments.
Each of these topics is addressed in depth in the IDPH and ISBE Joint Guidance for K-12 schools.
CCDPH would also like to draw your attention to the following best practices:
- Update your COVID emergency operations plan in preparation for the 2021-2022 school year
- Identify a single point of contact at your school when communicating with CCDPH
- Collect, update and maintain COVID-19 vaccination status among your students, faculty and staff so that if a case, cluster or outbreak occurs, swift action can be taken
CCDPH will be monitoring case rates closely. This guidance may change to recommend additional prevention strategies as rates change in suburban Cook County.
CCDPH shares your goal of implementing safe, in-person instruction this school year for all students, faculty and staff. Evidence supports the benefits of in-person instruction for a student’s academic achievement and social-emotional needs and development. Evidence also supports the use of the mitigation strategies to reduce COVID-19 transmission to keep schools open. It is the recommendation of CCDPH that all districts in suburban Cook County continue to require masks indoors and maintain the science-based, layered prevention strategies to reduce COVID-19 transmission in schools.