Wisconsin DHS updates guidelines on preventing COVID-19 outbreaks in schools

Coronavirus in schools
(Photo by Michael Loccisano/Getty Images)

MADISON, Wis. — As many area school districts work to finalize their back-to-school safety plans, the Wisconsin Department of Health Services is updating its COVID-19 guidance ahead of the fall semester.

DHS announced the launch of a K-12 school testing program communications toolkit for schools today, while also updating its guidelines for preventing the spread of COVID.

A central part of the recommendations is a push to get eligible kids ages 12 and up vaccinated.

“It is important to remember that the most effective tool in our toolbox is vaccination,” DHS Secretary-designee Karen Timberlake said. “Masking up inside and getting tested if you have COVID-19 symptoms are additional, important steps we can take to help protect ourselves, our families, our kids, and our teachers and school staff.”

More than 300 public school districts and private or independent charter schools have already signed up for the state’s COVID testing program as of mid-July, accounting for more than 50% of public districts and 10% of private or independent charter schools. DHS officials say that could mean 60% of Wisconsin’s school-aged kids could be covered by the testing program, depending on how many parents sign off on the consent form.

In addition to vaccinating kids and using screening testing to find cases that may be asymptomatic, the guidance from DHS and state superintendent Dr. Jill Underly recommends all students wear masks while indoors.

“We want schools open for in-person instruction. And we want to keep kids, educators, and families safe,” Underly said in a statement. “The joint guidance we are strongly recommending districts follow provides a roadmap for a safe return to in-person school.”

You can find a copy of the guidelines here and read them below.