(The Center Square) – Iowa students head back to school this fall without a mask mandate or vaccine mandate, the Iowa Department of Public Health noted in its fall update for schools.
Safe at School and the Disability Caucus of the Iowa Democratic Party held a sit-in on Wednesday to protest HF847, which prohibits a public school district from requiring wearing masks while on school property. Gov. Kim Reynolds signed the bill on May 20.
“It’s time for @IAGovernor to return power to parents and communities about how to keep our children safe from COVID-19,” the Iowa Democrats Twitter account posted.
The department said, however, that schools “should allow students, teachers, other staff members, and visitors who want to voluntarily continue to wear a cloth face covering for reasons that make sense for their family or individual health condition to do so.” The CDC, in an order that went into effect February 2, requires everyone using school buses, for both private and public schools, to wear masks, except for people with disabilities who cannot safely wear a mask.
Schools cannot demand disclosure of COVID-19 vaccine status, following the passage of HF889.
COVID-19 positive students and staff can return to normal after 10 days since symptoms first appeared, 24 hours with no fever without the use of fever-reducing medications, and if other symptoms of COVID-19 are improving.
“Loss of taste and smell may persist for weeks or months after recovery and need not delay the end of isolation,” the department said. “All other sick students, teachers, or other staff members should stay home in accordance with existing school procedures, generally until 24 hours after their symptoms resolve.”
K-12 schools have been asked to report when more than 10% of students are absent due to illness. In those cases, the department will contact the district’s local public health department, which will advise the school on best practices.
The department is “not currently” issuing isolation or quarantine orders for people who are COVID-19 positive or exposed to COVID-19. Local public health departments cannot require schools to investigate cases or conduct contact tracing, but school nurses must aid local boards of health investigate COVID and other diseases.
“IDPH has adjusted COVID-19 surveillance to follow the influenza model; state case investigation and tracing efforts for COVID-19 now focus on outbreaks and vulnerable populations,” the department said. “Just like with other public health activities, these efforts will be continuously evaluated and adjusted as needed.”
The vast majority of counties had “high” levels (the highest level possible) of community transmission of COVID-19, from August 3 to August 9, according to the CDC. The CDC has recommended all students, staff, teachers, and visitors to K-12 schools, regardless of vaccination status, and that fully vaccinated people who have a known exposure to someone with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 be tested three to five days after exposure, regardless of whether they have symptoms.
Iowa school districts, including Des Moines Public Schools, Cedar Rapids Community School District, and Iowa City Community School District, have sent out their own communications regarding COVID-19 back-to-school procedures.