Evers Administration, DHS, DPI Remind Schools of Support, Resources Available to Help Keep Kids and Educators Safe in School as Omicron Spreads
In order to keep students, teachers, and staff safe and in school, the Evers Administration and Department of Health Services (DHS) sent a letter to all public, private, and independent charter schools detailing the tools that DHS and the Department of Public Instruction (DPI) have made available to schools to help in this effort.
"We want our kids to be in the classroom and, just as we have from the beginning of this pandemic, our administration continues working to provide the necessary support and resources our kids, educators, and districts need to be safe," said Governor Tony Evers.
“DHS and DPI want to be sure all schools and families know about the full array of options available to them to keep students, teachers, and staff healthy and in school,” said DHS Secretary-designee Karen Timberlake. “The Omicron variant is now the dominant strain of COVID-19 in the state of Wisconsin, and we are witnessing rapid transmission and rising case numbers, particularly in kids under age 18. We recommend parents and schools use all the tools in our toolbox to stop the spread of COVID-19. If we can all work together to stop the spread, we can keep schools open and kids learning.”
Schools have multiple mitigation strategies available to help stop the spread of COVID-19. We urge school leaders and parents to participate in and support these approaches to keeping children safe:
- Enroll in the DHS School-Based Testing Program. DHS has secured federal funding to provide in-school testing through appropriate vendors as a way to help schools protect everyone in their buildings.
- Host a school-based vaccination and booster clinic during drop-off and pick-up times. All children ages 5 and older are eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine, and the CDC recommends all children ages 12 and older receive a booster five months after they receive their primary vaccine series. COVID-19 vaccines are safe, effective, and provide the best protection from getting seriously sick, being hospitalized, or dying from COVID-19.
- Require masks in schools to support in-person learning. Well-fitting, multi-layered masks have been shown to restrict respiratory droplet spread, helping to reduce the spread of COVID-19. If districts need KN95 or N95 masks and are not able to obtain them from other sources, they may be requested from the Department of Health Services stockpile. Instructions for submitting requests are available on the DHS COVID-19: Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) page.
- DHS supports the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) updated isolation and quarantine strategies. Students, teachers, and staff should get tested and isolate at home when they are sick, or quarantine and get tested if they have been in close contact with someone diagnosed with COVID-19. The CDC guidance requires mask wearing as part of their shortened isolation and quarantine measures. People diagnosed with or exposed to COVID-19 should also wear a mask following their isolation and quarantine periods. When isolation and quarantine measures are not implemented, COVID-19 can spread throughout a school and cause illness that could lead to hospitalization and death.
“We must work together to achieve the common goal of healthy kids, healthy educators, and safe schools, and that means implementing and continuing layered mitigation measures in schools,” said Wisconsin State Superintendent Dr. Jill Underly. “I’m grateful for DHS’s leadership to keep our kids and educators safe.”
COVID-19 cases in Wisconsin continue to surge. The seven-day average of new confirmed cases is now 9,063, a 150 percent increase over two weeks. Like other states, Wisconsin has seen an increase in the number of pediatric hospitalizations associated with COVID-19 as a result of high case activity. Since the start of the pandemic, almost 2,200 Wisconsinites under the age of 20 have been hospitalized with COVID-19. This includes 62 who have required some intensive care.
On December 20, DHS issued a public health advisory calling on all Wisconsinites to take urgent action to prevent additional hospitalizations and deaths due to COVID-19 and the Omicron variant. We all have a critical role to play in stopping the spread. To find a COVID-19 vaccine provider in your community, visit Vaccines.gov, or call 211 or 877-947-2211. For up-to-date information about Wisconsin’s COVID-19 response, visit the DHS COVID-19 webpage. We encourage you to follow @DHSWI on Facebook and Twitter, or dhs.wi on Instagram for more information on COVID-19.