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LOUISIANA DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH REOPENING GUIDELINES FOR LOUISIANA PUBLIC AND NONPUBLIC SCHOOLS

In light of the Governor’s Roadmap to Restarting Louisiana, the Department is issuing guidance pertaining to opening public and nonpublic school facilities to serve students in the 2020-2021 school year. This guidance is relative to operating schools in Phases 1, 2, and Phase 3 of reopening. This guidance is based on current medical knowledge of how COVID-19 is transmitted, primarily through close physical contact, vocal and musical activities during which aerosol particles might be emitted, and touching shared surfaces or objects. Protective measures in school settings include:
  • Social distancing, achieved by establishing and, for the maximum number of days possible, maintaining small groups of individuals that minimally interact with other groups or individuals, including in shared indoor spaces;
  • Monitoring students and staff for symptoms of fever, cough, shortness of breath or sore throat; and
  • Practicing frequent environmental cleaning and hand washing.
Please review federal guidelines for information pertaining to vulnerable individuals.
School Planning for COVID-19 Cases
  1. Given the levels of COVID-19 currently in our communities, schools should plan for and expect that some students will get COVID-19 during the school year.
  2. As part of their planning to reopen, schools should expect that there will be students who get COVID-19 and that those students will possibly expose other students/staff in the school setting. 
  • Students who are sick should stay home (regardless of illness).
  • Students who have COVID-19 should stay home and remain isolated until they have recovered and have been determined to no longer be infectious by their doctor.
  • Individuals who were in close contact of the student may be identified and contacted as part of the Office of Public Health (OPH) contact tracing process.
  • Close contact of a case is a person who was less than six feet away from the student for more than 15 minutes, determined by the OPH contact tracing process.
  • Close contacts will be asked to stay home and monitor symptoms for 14 days.
  • Not every student/faculty member in a school will need to stay home for 14 days, just those who are identified as close contacts to a case.

3. There are steps that schools can take when a student or staff member has been identified as having COVID-19. 

  • Communication plan to faculty, students and parents
  • Plans for both routine and “deep” cleaning
  • Ensure continuity of education for students/staff who are quarantined or isolated
  • Prepare plans for school closures (3-5 days) if the school environment is determined to be a source of ongoing COVID-19 spread
4. The decision to close schools is an individual, case-by-case process. That decision will ultimately be made by school leadership, with guidance and expertise from their Regional Medical Director.
  • All decisions about implementing school-based strategies (e.g., dismissals, event cancellations, other social distancing measures) will be made locally, in collaboration with the superintendent/principal and Regional Medical Director.
  • Factors that will be considered in closing a school or classroom will be the level of community transmission, number of students/faculty affected and risk of spread at the school.

BEST PRACTICES FOR REOPENING LOUISIANA SCHOOL FACILITIES IN 2020-2021

FOR PUBLIC AND NONPUBLIC SCHOOLS

Additional Considerations for Reopening 

The State of Louisiana is following the guidelines of public health experts when making decisions regarding the resumption of instruction in public and nonpublic school facilities. Louisiana’s plan for statewide reopening of schools outlines phases that are initiated once certain public health criteria are met. Throughout these phases, restrictions will be gradually relaxed as the public health situation improves, allowing greater flexibility, including the potential of resuming school building-based instruction. Should the public health situation decline, restrictions may also be gradually tightened. School systems should be prepared for either situation to occur during the course of the year. In Phases 1, 2, and 3, school facilities may open to students for in-person instruction with certain restrictions in place. These restrictions are outlined by the Louisiana Department of Health. The Louisiana Department of Education (LDOE), in consultation with the Louisiana Department of Health, offers the following best practices in order to assist schools in planning as it relates to public health guidelines, as well as limiting the spread of COVID-19. NOTE: Best practices may change in accordance with updates from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Louisiana’s Office of Public Health. Best practices are based on current medical knowledge of how COVID-19 is transmitted, primarily through close physical contact, vocal and musical activities during which aerosol particles might be emitted, and touching shared surfaces or objects. For information regarding Coronavirus Disease 2019/COVID-19, please visit the LDH website and CDC website: https://www.ldh.la.gov/coronavirus and https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.htm, and follow the below general best practices.

COVID-19  CORONAVIRUS

CDC is responding to a pandemic of respiratory disease spreading from person to person caused by a novel (new) coronavirus. The disease has been named “coronavirus disease 2019” (abbreviated “COVID-19”). This situation poses a serious public health risk. The federal government is working closely with state, local, tribal, and territorial partners as well as public health partners, to respond to this situation. COVID-19 can cause mild to severe illness; most severe illness occurs in adults 65 years and older and people of any age with serious underlying medical problems.


Situation in U.S.

Different parts of the country are seeing different levels of COVID-19 activity. The United States nationally is in the acceleration phase of the pandemic.  The duration and severity of each pandemic phase can vary depending on the characteristics of the virus and the public health response.

  • CDC and state and local public health laboratories are testing for the virus that causes COVID-19. For more details, view CDC’s Public Health Laboratory Testing map.
  • All 50 states have reported cases of COVID-19 to CDC.
  • U.S. COVID-19 cases include:
    • People who were infected while travelling, before returning to the United States
    • People who were infected after having close contact with someone known to be infected with the virus
    • People in a community who were infected with the virus but don’t know how or where they were infected
  • All U.S. states are reporting community spread of COVID-19.
  • View latest case counts, deaths, demographic characteristics, and a map of states with reported cases.
For more information about COVID-19, contact a state health department  or local health departmentexternal icon

CDC Recommends

Everyone can do their part to help us respond to this emerging public health threat by following CDC recommendations:

  • Wear a cloth face covering in public settings to avoid spreading COVID-19 to others in case you are infected but do not have symptoms.
  • The cloth face cover is meant to protect other people in case you are infected.
  • The cloth face coverings recommended are not surgical masks or N-95 respirators. Those are considered critical supplies that should be reserved for healthcare workers and other first responders, as recommended by CDC.
  • The cloth face covering is not a substitute for social distancing.
  • CDC continues to recommend that people try keep about 6 feet between themselves and others.

On April 16, the White House released Guidelines for Opening Up America Againexternal icon, a phased approach to help state and local officials reopen their economies, get people back to work, and continue to protect American lives.


People who are sick

If you get a fever or cough, consider whether you might have COVID-19, depending on where you live, your travel history, and other exposures. All of the United States is seeing some level of community spread of COVID-19. You may ask to be tested for COVID-19 by contacting a medical provider or health department, but it’s important that you know there is no treatment for this virus. Most people who get the virus have mild illness and are able to recover at home without medical care.


People at higher risk for severe illness

People 65 years and older and people with serious underlying medical conditions should take special precautions because they are at higher risk of developing severe COVID-19 illness.


Travelers

American citizens, lawful permanent residents, and their families who have been in one of the countries with travel restrictions for entering the United States in the past 14 days will be allowed to enter the United States but will be redirected to one of 13 airports. After you return from one of these countries, you should stay home and monitor your health.

All other international travelers, please follow CDC instructions during this time. Your cooperation is integral to the ongoing public health response to try to slow spread of this virus.


Healthcare Providers

If you are a healthcare provider, use your judgment to determine if a patient has signs and symptoms compatible with COVID-19 and whether the patient should be tested. CDC’s Criteria to Guide Evaluation and Laboratory Testing for COVID-19 provides priorities for testing patients with suspected COVID-19 infection.


COVID-19 Background

COVID-19 is caused by a new coronavirus. Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that are common in people and many different species of animals, including camels, cattle, cats, and bats. Rarely, animal coronaviruses can infect people and then spread between people such as with MERS-CoV, SARS-CoV, and now with this new virus, named SARS-CoV-2.

The SARS-CoV-2 virus is a betacoronavirus, like MERS-CoV and SARS-CoV. All three of these viruses have their origins in bats. The sequences from U.S. patients are similar to the one that China initially posted, suggesting a likely single, recent emergence of this virus from an animal reservoir.

Early on, many of the patients at the epicenter of the outbreak in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China had some link to a large seafood and live animal market, suggesting animal-to-person spread. Later, a growing number of patients reportedly did not have exposure to animal markets, indicating person-to-person spread. Person-to-person spread was subsequently reported outside Hubei and in countries outside China, including in the United States. Most international destinations now have ongoing community spread with the virus that causes COVID-19, as does the United States. Community spread means some people have been infected and it is not known how or where they became exposed. Learn more about the spread of this coronavirus that is causing COVID-19.


Severity

The complete clinical picture of COVID-19 is not fully known. Reported illnesses have ranged from very mild (including some people with no reported symptoms) to severe, including illness resulting in death. While information so far suggests that the majority of COVID-19 illnesses are mild, an early reportexternal icon out of China found serious illness in 16% of people who were infected.  A CDC Morbidity & Mortality Weekly Report that looked at severity of disease among COVID-19 patients in the United States by age group found that 80% of deaths were among adults 65 years and older, with the highest percentage of severe outcomes occurring in people 85 years and older. People with serious underlying medical conditions — like serious heart conditions, chronic lung disease, and diabetes, for example — also seem to be at higher risk of developing severe COVID-19 illness.


Risk Assessment

The risk posed by COVID-19 depends on characteristics of the virus, including how easily it spreads between people; the severity of resulting illness; and the medical or other measures available to control the impact of the virus (for example, vaccines or medications that can treat the illness) and the relative success of these. Because there are not yet vaccines or treatments for COVID-19, nonpharmaceutical interventions become the most important response strategy. These are community interventions that can help reduce the impact of disease, like social distancing and good hand hygiene.

When considering the risk that COVID-19 poses to Americans, it’s helpful to break down this risk into two types: risk of exposure and risk of serious illness and death.


Risk of exposure
  • Cases of COVID-19 and instances of community spread are being reported in all states.
  • People in places where ongoing community spread of the virus that causes COVID-19 has been reported are at elevated risk of exposure, with the level of their risk depending on their location.
  • Healthcare workers caring for patients with COVID-19 are at elevated risk of exposure.
  • Close contacts of persons with COVID-19 also are at elevated risk of exposure.
  • Travelers returning from affected international locations where community spread is occurring also are at elevated risk of exposure, with their level of risk depending on where they traveled.
Risk of severe illness

Based on what we know now, persons at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19 are:

CDC has developed guidance to help individuals and healthcare providers assess the risk and manage illness among people with potential community-related exposures to COVID-19.