BOSTON (CBS) — As the coronavirus causes more and more Massachusetts schools to close, the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education issued guidelines Friday for schools in dealing with the disease going forward. The recommendations include mandatory actions schools must take now and how to deal with individuals in the school community who test positive for the virus.
The department said that schools must immediately cancel or reschedule large assemblies of 250 people or more for the foreseeable future. They also urged schools to limit other gatherings where students, staff and others are less than six feet apart from one another. To accomplish this, the department urged schools to consider changing schedules, implement e-learning, begin regular health checks, cancel extracurricular activities and hold lunches in classrooms.
Additionally, the department said that regardless of whether the school has had a student or staff member test positive for the coronavirus, all schools must now expand cleaning activities and disinfect frequently touched surfaces daily using an EPA-registered disinfectant.
If a student or staff member is diagnosed with the coronavirus, they must stay home from school until they are authorized to leave their home by the local board of health, the department said. Also, those who had close contact with a positive case should consult with health officials as to whether they should self quarantine. Close contact is defined as physical contact or sharing of airspace within six feet for more than 15 minutes.
The department said that if an infected student or staff member was at school in close contact with other students or staff members immediately prior to the diagnosis, the school should close for 14 days. They said that decisions about school closure should be made on a school-by-school basis, not at the district level.
If a student’s parent or staff member’s spouse is found to have contracted the coronavirus, the department said the student or staff member must enter a 14-day quarantine before returning to school. The school can also decide to close for cleaning, but not for more than two days.
Anyone who traveled to a Level 3 coronavirus risk country must self-quarantine for 14 days, the department said. And if the coronavirus becomes spread in a community and it is unclear whether the infected people are part of the school community, schools should consider closing for at least 14 days and work with the Department of Public Health to determine next steps.