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As New Variant Spreads, CPS Asks Students, Staff to “Please Test for COVID Before Returning to School” After Winter Break – NBC Chicago

As Chicago Public Schools resumes Monday following winter break, administrators are bracing a possible surge in COVID cases by asking students and staff to “please test for COVID-19 before returning school,” a message posted to CPS’ website says.

“In order to keep our school communities safe, please test for COVID-19 before returning to school,” a post titled “Important Note For Families Regarding Winter Break” reads.

“If you test positive, please report the positive test using the COVID-19 Self-Reporting Form, and follow the guidance outlined on our safety page,” it goes on to say. “For those who test positive: isolate at home for five days, or if symptoms persist after five days, continue to isolate at home until symptoms resolve. Upon returning to school, wear a mask until ten days after symptom onset or ten days after the positive test if asymptomatic.”

In August, CPS CEO Pedro Martinez said it will not require students and faculty to test for COVID weekly, but that they could opt to do so through a weekly testing program.

Martinez at that time also said that masking will not be required in most situations, but that it is still “strongly recommended.”

The city of Chicago and many of its surrounding counties are listed in the “medium” category for COVID community transmission, according to the city’s COVID dashboard. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 42% of Illinois also remains at “medium” community transmission.

Around 38% of Illinois is at “low” status. The remaining 20%, the CDC says, is in the “high” category.

“We’ve been able to remain in “medium” COVID-19 level through the holidays, which I am very pleased about, but we are by no means in the clear,” Dr. Allison Arwady, commissioner of the Chicago Department of Public Health said during a Facebook Live update last week.

But with the arrival of new strains, including the highly contagious “recombinant” variant XBB.1.5, metrics could potentially rise again.

“I am as done with COVID as anyone in Chicago but COVID is not done with us,” Arwady continued.

Late last month, just ahead of the holidays, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced that “if and when” Chicago reaches a “high” level of COVID community transmission, the city will issue a mask advisory.

“As of last week, Chicago and Cook County remain in the “medium” COVID-19 community level, according to the metrics that we follow from the CDC,” Lightfoot said on Dec. 22

“Cases, as many of you have already heard, are on the rise in our city and nationwide. And we expect to reach the high level soon, perhaps as early as this week, or next. And if we do, we won’t be alone.For example, other big cities such as New York City, and Los Angeles already went too high, and 43 counties in Illinois reached the high level last week.If and when Chicago and Cook County reached the high level, we will issue a mask advisory.”

The advisory means the city would be “asking all Chicagoans age 2 and older to wear masks in indoor public settings.”

“It’s entirely possible we’ll get into the “high” level soon,” Arwady said.

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