State adjusts COVID-19 testing rules for school, childcare staff

The CDC no longer requires routine testing in schools or childcare settings regardless of the vaccination status of the staff member.

The state has updated testing requirements for school and childcare personnel, rescinding the requirement that unvaccinated employees in these sectors test twice weekly. 

This change went into effect Friday, Sept. 16 and is made on the advice of medical experts, based on their careful consideration of the current conditions of the COVID-19 pandemic and is in line with Centers for Disease Control (CDC) guidance.

“Vaccination continues to be the most effective tool we have against COVID-19, and I’m proud that millions of Illinoisans have taken advantage of these life-saving vaccines — they have given us the ability to adjust these requirements,” said Gov. J.B. Pritzker. “I continue to urge everyone in the state to stay up to date on vaccines and boosters, including getting the recently released bivalent booster shot.”

 Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) Director Dr. Sameer Vohra said, “As our approach to the pandemic continues to evolve, we are easing some COVID-19 restrictions in our schools and daycare centers. It remains our continued goal to address the health risks of COVID-19, but current conditions of the pandemic are different from those of the last two years. There are now many tools available for protecting our students, teachers and the general public, including the latest updated bivalent vaccines and effective treatment options for children and adults.”

The CDC no longer requires routine testing in schools or childcare settings regardless of the vaccination status of the staff member. However, they continue to recommend schools and other congregate educational settings consider instituting testing at times of high risk in the community, such as upon return from breaks or after large indoor events. Illinois schools and childcare centers are urged to consider these suggestions when planning testing and prevention strategies.

Free and accessible testing options are widely available to school staff. IDPH made 1 million free rapid tests available to schools earlier this year. 160 school districts have opted into the SHIELD testing program, performing regular surveillance testing for schools at no cost to the district. Almost 50,000 tests have been performed by SHIELD since the beginning of the 2022-2023 school year.

Vaccines continue to be the strongest protection against COVID-19 for all ages. Students, teachers, and staff are all strongly encouraged to stay up to date on vaccines and boosters to prevent serious illness and even death. Information on finding vaccines and booster shots can be found at www.vaccines. gov.

“Educators across Illinois have spent the past two years prioritizing students’ learning and well-being. Their dedication brought students safely back to the classroom,” said State Superintendent of Education Dr. Carmen I. Ayala.