Frequently Asked Questions: Vermont COVID-19 School Testing Program

These FAQs were updated on Feb. 8, 2022.

Test at Home

Q1: How do schools get the necessary take home antigen test kits to run the Test at Home testing program?

Tests will be distributed to SU/SD central offices and from there the SU/SD will organize distribution to district schools. Participating independent schools will pick up their tests at a designated SU/SD central office near them. SU/SDs and independent schools will need to order additional tests according to their specific need, allowing a 1-week lead time for deliveries.


Q2: Does a school need a CLIA waiver to participate in the new testing program?

No. CLIA waivers were only required to use the BinaxNow Pro Kits. These tests can continue to be used for school-based diagnostic testing, but the take home antigen tests do not require a CLIA waiver.


(Updated 1/31) Q3: Why should antigen tests be used after a COVID-19 infection to confirm an individual can stop isolating?

Antigen tests look for active infection in an individual. PCR tests can detect remnants of the virus for up to 90 days after an initial infection, so they may return a positive result after an individual is no longer contagious due to an active infection.


(Updated 1/31) Q4: Do the negative rapid tests clear a student just for school? How about afterschool activities? Activities in the community?

  • For asymptomatic, presumptive contacts, completion of the appropriate rapid testing protocol clears the student for all daily activities in school and the commuity. They no longer need to quarantine. Schools should not monitor compliance with at-home testing.
  • For asymptomatic individuals who are close contacts outside of school, it is recommended that they follow Vermont Department of Health guidance for close contacts regarding activities outside of school, but they may attend school through participation in the Test at Home program. Schools should not monitor compliance with at-home testing.
  • For continuous household exposure, see Q5 of the Quarantine and Isolation FAQ.
  • Symptomatic students should be tested for diagnostic purposes, which is not part of the Test at Home program. For guidance on return to school for symptomatic students, see Q7 of the Quarantine and Isolation FAQ. 

(Updated 1/31) Q5: How do middle and high schools, where students move from one classroom to another, notify students and families of a positive case?

Schools should do their best to notify students in classrooms who were potentially exposed to an infectious student or staff member. Schools may use the template letters  provided on the Agency of Education website to notify families as to which classes the positive case was in. Schools should not engage in contract tracing in order to do this and are reminded not to share protected health information. If this approach is not feasible, see Test at Home Q11 for a more streamlined approach.


(Updated 1/31) Q6: Are families required to report their antigen tests results for their child to attend school? 

A: For asymptomatic presumptive and close contacts, no. For symptomatic students, see Q7 of the Qurantine and Isolation FAQ.

Families should be strongly encouraged to report any positive cases to the Health Department using the Self-Test Result Reporting Form. They should also notify the school and any close contacts that the student had while infectious that the student is positive for COVID-19. 


(Updated 1/31) Q7: What if a family chooses not to participate in the Test at Home program? Is it up to the school to enforce quarantine guidance? 

Test at Home is a program for asymptomatic, presumptive contacts, as well as close contacts from out-of-school exposures, to allow them to continue to attend school. Participation in Test at Home is voluntary. It is not the school’s responsibility to enforce quarantine guidance as a part of Test at Home. 

Symptomatic students should be tested for diagnostic purpoes, and that testing is not part of Test at Home. For guidance on return to scool for symptomatic studets, see Q7 of the Quarantine and Isolation FAQ.


Q8: Should those in the Test at Home program test over the weekend? Do they need to test to return to school after the weekend?

Students and staff participating in the Test at Home program should test for 5 consecutive days after learning of their potential exposure. This includes over the weekend. They do not need to test on the morning returning to school if this is beyond the 5 days of testing.


Q9: Can schools continue weekly PCR surveillance testing?

The state, in consultation with our infectious disease pediatric advisory team, has determined that PCR testing is too slow to effectively identify and contain the current variant. Over the coming weeks, schools will be able to replace their PCR tests with LAMP tests for diagnostic testing needs. LAMP tests are as accurate as PCR and provide an immediate result. 


 (Updated 1/31) Q10: How does the Test at Home program work for schools that are above 80% vaccination rate?

Schools with 80%+ vaccinated students should respond to a positive case or cases in school with a general letter (see template) to the school community including instructions and information for families on how to obtain rapid antigen tests. They can do this either by arranging a pickup opportunity for students or families or sending them home with students at the end of the day. Test distribution in schools with an 80+ vaccination rate would be the same as in other schools.

Schools should not attempt to track or otherwise determine individual student vaccination status, rather provide the appropriate number of kits requested by the student. The exception to this guideline is pertains to when students have had continuous exposure in their household (See Isolation/Quarantine FAQ Q5). Schools should not require asymptomatic students to test in order to attend school. See Quarantine and Isolation Q7 for guidance on symptomatic students.


Q11: We have multiple cases in our middle/high school and it is not logistically feasible to trace each positive case by classroom contacts or we have so many positive cases that the entire school community can be reasonably considered a presumptive contact. What should we do?

When it is no longer logistically feasible to identify presumptive contacts, it is recommended that schools send out a General Notification letter to the entire school community and offer take home antigen tests. Please note: there is no requirement that students test in order to attend school. Schools should make sure that families have equitable access to testing by ensuring flexibility in pick-up method.


(Updated 1/31) Q12: What should we do if our school runs low or doesn't have testing supplies?

If a school does not have enough test kits on hand to distribute to students who are presumptive contacts (school exposure), students should continue to come to school. Those who have been identified as close contacts (community exposure) or who are experiencing continuous exposure at home should follow the Health Department's quarantine guidance. Any student who has COVID-19 symptoms should stay home from school (See Quarantine and Isolation FAQ Q7). Schools should not prevent students who are asymptomatic from attending school based on whether or not they have tested, and it is not the school's responsibility to enforce compliance with Health Department guidance.


(New 1/31) Q13: What's the difference between a presumptive contact and a close contact?

A close contact is a person who has been identified through contact tracing as being within 6 feet of a positive case of COVID-19 for more than 15 minutes during that case’s infectious period.  As a public health tool, contact tracing identifies who is a close contact and therefore who’s most likely to become a case next. It requires determining the infectious period of the case, which of those days they were at school, and who else was in school and in close proximity to the case on those days.

A presumptive contact is a student or staff member who shared a classroom with another person who tested positive for COVID-19. This approach allows for the faster notification of a larger pool of contacts who may be at lower risk of infection than someone who has been formally designated a close contact through contact training.


(New 1/31) Q14: Can we provide tests for Test at Home to contracted school staff, such as bus drivers, food service staff and behavioral interventionists?

Yes.


(New 1/31) Q15: Can we provide tests for home study students who take one or more classes in our building?

Yes.


(New 1/31) Q16: Are students who ride a bus with a student or staff member who tests positive for COVID-19 considered to be presumptive contacts?

No, students riding the same bus are not presumptive contacts for the purposes of the Test at Home program and do not need to be contacted or offered tests per the protocol.


(New 1/31) Q17: Are students who share a cafeteria with a student or staff member who tests positive for COVID-19 considered to be presumptive contacts?

No, students sharing a cafeteria are not presumptive contacts for the purposes of the Test at Home program and do not need to be contacted or offered tests per the protocol. Schools are reminded that the general contact letter is available for use if the case count meets the threshold where classroom presumptive contacts cannot be specifically notified.


(New 1/31) Q18: Should the school take action around lunch for students on day 6-10 post-COVID-19 infection?

No. Schools should not separate, and should be conscientious to avoid stigmatization of, students who are returning to school post-COVID-19 infection. Schools and school nurses may counsel those students on the importance of wearing a high-quality mask whenever they are not actively eating or drinking.
 


(New 1/31) Q19: For the purposes of timing testing, what is day zero for Test at Home?

Day zero is the day the school notifies families that there was a case of COVID-19 at school.
 


(New 1/31) Q20: If the school is notified of a positive case several days after the student’s family learned of the diagnosis, should presumptive contacts still be notified?

If the school learns of a case more than five days after the student initially tested positive, no notification of households should take place. For example, if a student tested positive on Monday and the school was made aware the following Monday, the school would not need to notify presumptive contacts.
 


(New 1/31) Q21: How many tests should we give out if we are notified multiple days after the student’s family learned of the diagnosis?

If the school is notified more than five days after the student initially tested positive, no notification of households should take place. If the school is notified five or fewer days after the student receives their diagnosis, the school should offer the same number of tests and the same guidance: two tests for vaccinated students and five tests for unvaccinated students. Please see Test at Home Q8 for clarification on notification/testing over the weekend.

For example, If a student tested positive on Monday and the school was made aware on Wednesday, schools should still give vaccinated students/staff 2 tests and unvaccinated students/staff 5 tests.
 


(New 2/8) Q22: How should we use LAMP tests?

LAMP tests should be used in school to test symptomatic students and staff who have not had COVID-19 in the past 90 days. Symptomatic people who have had COVID-19 in the past 90 days should use antigen tests. This is because like with PCR tests, LAMP tests can continue to be positive for up to 90 days after having had COVID-19.
 

(New 2/8) Q23: If a LAMP test returns a negative result, may the symptomatic student/staff member stay at school?

No. Symptomatic children and staff taking a LAMP test must leave school, regardless of results. They may return to school following a negative test result, symptom improvement, and no fever for 24 hours without the use of fever-reducing medicine.
 

Quarantine and Isolation

The 2022 COVID-19 testing program in Vermont schools is based on the Vermont Department of Health’s quarantine and isolation guidance and understanding that guidance will be critical to successful implementation of the policy. These FAQ address questions about the quarantine and isolation guidance relevant to schools and the testing program. For more information, visit the Health Department’s What to Do if You are a Close Contact and What to Do if You Test Positive for COVID-19 websites.
 

Q1: If a school aged child has received both doses of Pfizer, but has not received a booster, what guidance should they follow?

School aged students who have received their 2-dose (primary) vaccine series are considered fully vaccinated do not need to quarantine if they are identified as a close contact. This guidance can be found on the Health Department website.


Q2: Is Return-to-Play affected by the change in isolation and quarantine recommendations?

The Return-to-Play protocol is based upon national recommendations to increase safety and minimize risk. Return-to-Play does not impact a student’s ability to return to school. Return-to-  Play should be a teams-based discussion between the parent and medical provider. Return-to-Play is not the responsibility of the school nurse.

Continued team-based care between school nurses and pediatric medical homes is encouraged.  School nurses should advocate for families of students post-COVID-19 infection to communicate with their medical home before returning to activity.


Q3: What if a student who has had COVID-19 cannot mask due to a disability?

A student who has had a COVID-19 infection and a disability that prevents mask use can return to school after 5 days of isolation if they have never had symptoms, or their symptoms have improved and they feel better, and they have had no fever (>100.4 degrees) for at least 24 hours without the use of medicine that reduces fevers. Testing with two antigen tests performed at least 24 hours apart beginning no earlier than day 4 is strongly recommended, but these students could end isolation after day 5 if the other requirements (symptom improvement/afebrile) are met.


Q4: If a person has had a COVID-19 infection in the past 90 days, do they have to quarantine if they are a close contact?

If someone had a confirmed case of COVID-19 in the last 90 days and are now a close contact, they should wear a mask around other people for the next 10 days. They do not need to quarantine as long as they do not have any symptoms. If they get any symptoms, they should follow the quarantine guidance and test. 


Q5: When should the quarantine period begin for someone with a continuous household exposure to a COVID-19 positive person? 

If an adult is fully vaccinated and boosted, or within 5 months of their primary Pfizer or Moderna vaccine series, or 2 months of the primary J&J vaccine series, OR if a school aged child received both doses of the Pfizer vaccine they do not need to quarantine, even if they have continuous exposure to a household contact. However, this individual should monitor for symptoms and should stay home if symptoms develop. It is recommended that they test every 3-5 days while their household contact is in isolation and for the 5 days after they end isolation.

If an individual is unvaccinated, or an adult received their primary Pfizer or Moderna vaccine series more than 5 months ago or received their primary J&J vaccine more than 2 months ago, and they are not boosted, then Day 0 of quarantine would begin when the positive household contact’s isolation period ends. 

 

Q6: Can schools require students to test upon return from isolation or quarantine?   

Schools cannot require students to test out of quarantine. Students and families should be directed to the Health Department’s websites What to Do if You are a Close Contact and What to Do if You Test Positive for COVID-19 for recommendations around quarantine and isolation.  Students and staff who are sick should remain out of school until their symptoms improve, they are feeling better, and they remain fever free for 24 hours without the use of fever reducing medication.


(New 1/31) Q7. How do we know when a student who has had symptoms of COVID-19 should return to school?

The Vermont Child Health Improvement Program, the Vermont Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the Vermont Department of Health have collaborated to create this pediatric flow chart to support clinical decision making when a child or youth presents with new illness.  This document also helps with decision making about when to return to school or childcare after COVID-19 or non-COVID-19 illness. There is a strong emphasis on those presenting with COVID-19 symptoms being tested. 

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