MEA wanted to make sure you are aware about some changes to COVID protocols from the Maine Department of Education. As you may know, the U.S. CDC reduced the number of days required to quarantine to FIVE, with conditions. These federal changes have been applied to the operating procedures for schools in Maine.

MEA believes the revisions to the Maine DOE School Standard Operating Procedures make it all the more important that all districts follow the Maine CDC recommendations, which include universal masking and distancing. Additionally, with the Omicron variant, MEA will also advocate for the Maine DOE to use federal funds to purchase additional KN95 masks and other necessary PPE for our school staff. Below are highlights of the recent changes as well as an update on the federal COVID vaccine or test mandate.

From Maine DOE-Quarantine Days Are Lessened

School Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) are as follows:
·        Isolation and quarantine periods for students and staff are shortened consistent with recently updated guidance from the U.S. CDC, Quarantine Exemptions Close contacts must quarantine for 5 days from last COVID-19 exposure from school and school activities and then wear a mask for an additional 5 days unless at least one of the following conditions applies:
1. The close contact (staff or student) is boosted; or   
2. The close contact is a fully vaccinated 16-17 year old student who, according to the U.S. CDC, may receive a booster but has not yet done so; or                                                                   
3. The close contact (staff or student) is not eligible for a booster but is fully vaccinated; or
4. The close contact (staff or student) completed their second mRNA dose within 6 months (or completed their J&J vaccine within two months); or
5. The close contact (staff or student) participates in school pooled testing; or
6. The school is enforcing a mandatory masking policy.
Staff and students who do not fall within exceptions 1-6 above must quarantine if they are a close contact, regardless of the location of exposure. If the student or staff only fall within exceptions 5-6, they must quarantine in the community, per Maine CDC quarantine guidelines:
·        The Maine CDC is aligning its definition of what constitutes a COVID-19 outbreak in schools with the State’s longstanding definition of an outbreak of other infectious diseases in schools. Effective immediately, the Maine CDC will open an outbreak investigation if a school reports that more than 15 percent of a school population is absent, which is the standard currently utilized to define an outbreak from other infectious diseases, such as influenza.
·        The Maine CDC will no longer consider exposure to COVID-19 in an outdoor setting or on a school bus, where the Federal government requires masks be worn, as a “close contact.”
·        The Maine CDC is updating its “test to stay” pooled testing program to enable more students to stay in the classroom. Previously, students and staff participating in pooled testing who were exposed to COVID-19 outside of a school setting were required to quarantine and not attend school. If they were exposed to COVID-19 in a school setting and participating in pooled testing, then they were not required to quarantine from school. Now, regardless of where the exposure occurs, if a student or staff member is participating in pooled testing, then they will not be required to quarantine from school.
Consistent with U.S. CDC guidance, the Maine CDC continues to recommend universal indoor masking by students, staff members, faculty, and visitors in K–12 schools, regardless of vaccination status. Local school boards are charged with the responsibility of implementing masking requirements for their school systems.

Read the full MDOE changes here.

COVID Vaccine or Weekly Test Mandate for Public School Staff Who Work in a District With 100 or More Employees

As you may be aware, the federal government has issued a vaccine or test mandate that will impact public school employees in Maine. There are state and federal agencies that are working to develop a plan as to how this mandate will be implemented. Please note, the vaccine mandate is under review by the U.S. Supreme Court. The Supreme Court will hear the case this Friday. MEA will update you as this process continues.