The CDC recommends universal masking and social distancing in schools this fall due to the highly contagious delta variant circulating in the county. The Riverhead school superintendent says he hopes the district will have its plan in place by the end of this week. Photo: Adobe Stock

All students, teachers, staff and visitors in K-12 schools should follow the Centers for Disease Control guidance, which urges universal mask wearing and social distancing due to the circulating and highly contagious delta variant, the Suffolk County health department has advised school officials.

“The Suffolk County Department of Health Services concurs with the Centers for Disease Control and the American Academy of Pediatrics, which urge universal mask wearing in schools. SCDHS also recommends that school districts follow the Centers for Disease Control guidance for COVID-19 Prevention in K-12 Schools, updated on August 5, 2021,” the health department said in a guidance document distributed to school districts across the county.

“Mask guidance remains unchanged from the end of the prior school year in June 2021 consistent with CDC recommendations,” the health department said.

“Per existing CDC guidance, all students, staff, and visitors must wear masks indoors regardless of vaccination status. Mask wearing is not required outdoors,” the health department said.

Schools should maintain at least three feet of physical distance between students within classrooms, physical education, and music, the health department said. Students engaged in singing or playing a wind instrument should maintain at least six feet of distance from other students. Schools should encourage outdoor activities that allow for distancing and reduced contact.

The final decision on whether to adopt the measures recommended by the CDC, the county health department and the American Academy of Pediatrics rests with the individual school district.

Riverhead School Superintendent Dr. Augustine Tornatore said yesterday morning he intends to discuss the health department guidance with school board members and hopes to have a final plan ready by the end of this week.

Suffolk County is an area of high community transmission of the coronavirus, according to the CDC. There were 2,259 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Suffolk over the seven-day period ending Aug. 9, a 53.7% increase over the previous seven-day period.

Hospitalizations have been on the rise, too. There were 82 new COVID-19 hospital admissions in Suffolk in the seven-day period ending Aug. 8, a 12.3% increase over the previous seven-day period. On Aug. 9, there were 21 new COVID admissions, according to Suffolk health department data.

Read the full CDC guidance here.

Read “COVID-19 Guidance for Safe Schools” from the American Academy of Pediatrics here.

Read the Suffolk County Department of Health Services guidance below. SCDHS-School-Reopening-Guidance-August-9-2021-final

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