With Illinois continuing to see vast improvement in recent weeks of COVID-19 hospitalizations and transmission, Gov. J.B. Pritzker released an updated executive order on Friday, March 4 lifting the school exclusion requirements, shifting schools back to the ordinary processes for handling infectious diseases.
The executive order was initially put in place to standardize Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) requirements for schools and alleviate the burden on overwhelmed local health departments from having to provide individualized recommendations.
Now that the COVID-19 surge has subsided, schools and local health departments can return to exercising their longstanding authority to address infectious disease cases among students and staff, according to the governor’s order.
“As we move forward in our fight against COVID-19, schools should continue to look to their local health departments, IDPH (Illinois Department of Public Health) and the CDC for guidance in dealing with this virus as they do for all communicable diseases,” said Pritzker. “By getting vaccinated and staying home when sick or when deemed necessary by local health departments, school communities can help ensure their classrooms are a safe place for all.”
The CDC and IDPH continue to strongly recommend that students, teachers, and staff stay home when they have a confirmed case of COVID-19 or have signs of any infectious illness, including COVID-19.
Schools should also continue to recommend that close contacts stay home and will continue to coordinate with their corresponding local health department to determine whether a close contact should stay home based on CDC guidance, according to the governor’s released statement.
“With almost half of the entire Illinois population not only vaccinated, but boosted and up to date on their COVID-19 vaccines, as well as high levels of population immunity from both vaccination and infections, the risk of outbreaks causing severe illness is reduced,” said IDPH Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike. “In-person learning is important for the social, emotional, and mental health of students, and schools should continue to work with their local health departments to assess risks and implement mitigations as needed to protect their students and staff.”
All schools continue to have long-standing authority under Illinois law to address confirmed, suspected, and contacts of infectious disease cases, including COVID-19. Just as they do with chickenpox, schools should send students with COVID-19 home.
Illinois continues to lead the Midwest for school-aged vaccination rates. Schools, organizations, and other groups wanting to host a vaccination clinic should file an application within the coming weeks at https://dph.illinois.gov/covid19/vaccinationclinics.html.