For schools that choose to implement on-site symptom screenings, CDC offers the following considerations:

  • Consider the scientific evidence outlined above and weigh the risks and benefits to students, staff, and the larger community.
  • Consider how school policies regarding symptom screenings can balance the resources required and feasibility of implementation and the risk of transmission in schools.
  • Consider ways to reduce the likelihood of excluding students who do not have COVID-19 from essential instructional and critical developmental experiences.
  • Before sharing personally identifiable information on students concerning COVID-19, consider Federal, state, and local requirements, including provisions in the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA).

Schools should also understand what symptoms screening does and does not do. When implemented, the purpose of symptom screening is to identify individuals who may have COVID-19 and exclude those individuals from a setting to reduce the risk of transmission to others. Symptom screening does not assess whether it is safe for an individual student to attend school or whether a student has an increased risk for severe illness if they develop COVID-19. Symptom screenings also do not provide enough information to diagnose someone with COVID-19.

There is not a single symptom that is uniquely predictive of a COVID-19 diagnosis. A COVID-19 viral test is needed to confirm if someone has a current infection. Schools may already have illness management criteria in place for school admittance; this is an opportunity to review that criteria and consider recommending stricter adherence to their existing illness management criteria.

Although CDC does not currently recommend conducting universal symptom screening at school, students should not attend school when they are sick. Home symptom screenings rely on students and their parents, guardians, or caregivers initially identifying when the student may have signs and symptoms of illness and to take action (such as staying home). This process can also be followed by school staff by monitoring children for overt symptoms of any infectious illness that may develop during the school day and helping the student and family take needed actions.

It is essential for schools to reinforce to students, parents or caregivers, and staff the importance of students staying home when sick until at least 24 hours after they no longer have a fever (temperature of 100.4 or higher) or signs of a fever (chills, feeling very warm, flushed appearance, or sweating) without the use of fever-reducing medicine (e.g., Tylenol). Policies that encourage and support staying home when sick will help prevent the transmission of SARS-CoV-2 (and other illnesses including flu) and help keep schools open.

“Screening Students for Symptoms of COVID-19: Limitations and Considerations” was published by CDC on July 23, 2020.

The Procuro PIMM Health Check APP provides a non-intrusive way of protecting students and staff in light of the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) Global Pandemic.

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