Texas schools won't be required to conduct contact tracing and can't require masks under new guidance

·3 min read
Students walk into a school
School children wearing facemasks walk outside Condit Elementary School in Bellaire, outside Houston, Texas, on December 16, 2020. François Picard / AFP
  • The Texas Education Agency this week introduced new guidance for the upcoming school year.

  • Schools will not be required to conduct contact tracing if a student tests positive for COVID-19, according to the guidance.

  • The agency said schools cannot impose mask mandates but they must allow students to wear them.

  • See more stories on Insider's business page.

Schools in Texas will not be required to conduct contact tracing if students test positive for COVID-19, the Texas Education Agency said in new guidelines released this week.

"Given the data from 2020-21 showing very low COVID-19 transmission rates in a classroom setting and data demonstrating lower transmission rates among children than adults, school systems are not required to conduct COVID-19 contact tracing," the TEA said in the new guidelines.

"If school systems are made aware that a student is a close contact, the school system should notify the student's parents," it said.

The data cited by the agency to decide against mandating contact tracing came from an era when many students were not attending in-person classes, NBC Dallas-Fort Worth reported. Schools must notify the Texas Department of Health if an individual who has been in a schools tests positive for the disease, according to the guidelines.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention still recommend that schools conduct contact tracing to minimize the spread of the disease. Close contacts who are vaccinated for COVID-19 should be tested but do not need to quarantine, per the CDC. Close contacts who are unvaccinated should quarantine at home for 14 days, according to the CDC.

The TEA said schools are not required to notify parents when an individual tests postive for the disease in a particular district, the school, or a particular classroom. The document does not provide school districts with guidelines on how to prevent the spread, only how to act if a student tests positive for the disease.

Schools will also be prohibited from imposing a mask mandate on students, the agency said in the guidance, citing a July executive order issued by Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican, prohibiting mask mandates.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in July in new guidance said students and staff at school should mask up regard les of their vaccination status, citing the spread of the more contagious Delta variant of COVID-19 that has caused a resurgence of the disease in the US.

Schools should still allow students to wear masks if they choose to, according to the TEA.

According to the TEA guidance, schools may set up rapid testing using funding from the "state or other sources" on campus to detect asymptomatic cases of COVID-19. Testing can be conducted on staff, and can also be conducted on students with written permission from parents, the guidelines say.

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