The New Jersey Department of Health has released updated COVID-19 guidance for K-12 schools, including school exclusion criteria to reflect the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s recent reduction in isolation and quarantine timelines. The guidance also includes recommendations for additional measures schools can implement in regions with very-high COVID-19 community transmission.

NJDOH’s guidance on isolation and quarantine follows the federal CDC guidance. The shortened timeframes for isolation and quarantine focus on the period when a person is most infectious, followed by continued masking for an additional five days.

The updated recommendations for when schools are in regions with very high COVID-19 community transmission (red on the COVID-19 Activity Level Report map) support in-person instruction by adding additional precautions for extracurricular activities that pose challenges for appropriate physical distancing and masking. This document does not apply to childcare settings.

“We know that students benefit from in-person learning, and safely continuing in-person instruction remains a priority,” said Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli. “These recommendations will help local health departments and schools in handling COVID-19 cases and exposures among students and staff to ensure healthy outcomes for all.”

The school recommendations incorporate the updated isolation and quarantine guidance for cases and exposures. Under the recommendations, students or staff do not generally need to wear masks outdoors, including during outdoor physical education classes or school sports except during days six to 10 after completing a five-day isolation or quarantine.

When the COVID-19 risk level of community transmission is very high, schools are recommended to limit participation in extracurricular activities to students and staff who are up to date with COVID-19 vaccination, and to conduct COVID-19 screening testing of students and staff, regardless of vaccination status, twice weekly for participation in all extracurricular activities.

Under the updated isolation and quarantine guidance, persons who test positive for COVID-19 should stay home and isolate for at least five full days. Those without symptoms and those for whom symptoms have improved can end isolation after five days, but a mask should be worn for days 6 to 10.

During quarantine for individuals exposed but not sick or testing positive, individuals should stay home and away from other people for at least five days. If COVID-19 symptoms develop, get tested and follow isolation recommendations. If asymptomatic, individuals should get tested at least five days after the last close contact and if the test is positive, follow isolation recommendations. If the test is negative, quarantine can be ended after day five, but a mask should be worn for days 6 to 10.