COLUMBIA, S.C.— As the impact of COVID-19 continues to decline, the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) today provided guidance to schools and childcare centers to help transition from Test to Stay and quarantine to learning, working, and living with COVID-19 with minimal disruptions.
“DHEC recognizes that our state’s two-year response to this virus has had a significant impact on our families, children, and educators,” said DHEC Director Dr. Edward Simmer. “Our updated guidance recognizes that COVID-19 is an illness that we now need to treat and manage as endemic, and will help our schools, childcare centers, and ultimately all of us make that transition. At the same time, it also allows us to respond quickly should another surge or impactful new variant arise.”
After historic highs in case counts at the top of the year, numbers have been on a steady decline in recent weeks. For example, the week of Jan. 22 we saw 104,707 cases, followed by 64,298 cases the week of Jan. 29, 34,963 cases the week of Feb. 5 and 19,788 cases the week of Feb. 12.
The guidance is similar, but not identical, to our pre-COVID-19 guidance for influenza. As part of our transition planning efforts, our overarching School and Childcare Exclusion List now reflects this guidance update. Below are guidance highlights:
- The guidance applies to individual schools, not entire school districts and childcare centers.
- Schools and childcare centers may suspend Test to Stay or quarantine once they have had two consecutive weeks with less than 10 percent of all students and staff having COVID-19.
- When Test to Stay or quarantine has stopped, contact tracing and testing and masking of close contacts without symptoms is no longer required
- The first two-week period ends Feb. 28, 2022
- Based on week-one data (week of Feb. 21) and if the trend of low cases continues, DHEC anticipates that most schools and childcare centers will have the option to suspend Test to Stay or quarantine on March 1, 2022.
- Schools will continue to report the number of cases to DHEC on a weekly basis.
- If a school or childcare center that has suspended Test to Stay or quarantine and has two consecutive weeks with 10 percent or more of all students and staff having COVID-19, either Test to Stay or Quarantine will need to be reinstated.
- Isolation requirements for those who have COVID-19 will remain unchanged.
Vaccination continues to be the most effective way to control COVID-19. Everyone can help keep COVID-19 cases low by getting vaccinated and boosted, parents considering vaccination for their children, wearing masks indoors around others, and limiting large in person gatherings with those you don’t live with.
For more a copy of the updated school guidance, click here.