COVID-19 and Schools/Childcare

Last content update: 1/18/23

As of January 1, 2023, employers in non-healthcare settings are no longer required to report COVID-19 outbreaks to the Public Health Department.

For more information on COVID-19-related requirements for businesses and employers in non-healthcare settings, refer to Cal/OSHA COVID-19 Guidance and Resources.

COVID-19 Vaccine Information
For the latest information on where children 6 months and older can be vaccinated or how to schedule an appointment, please visit This is the County’s official source for vaccine-related information and is updated frequently.
Information on the State of California’s COVID-19 vaccination guidance and prioritization plan is also available.

School Portal for Outbreak Tracking (SPOT)    SCCOE COVID-19 CONCERNS PORTAL   COVID-19 Designee Toolkit

Education Programs Include Childcare, Preschools, TK-12, Higher Education and Other Programs Serving Children and Youth

Welcome, education program partners. The County Office of Education and County Public Health Department continue to work with schools and childcare programs to maintain a safe and healthy environment for in-person learning, childcare, and programming. 


COVID-19 Decision Tree for TK-12 and Childcare (Updated 11/15/22 - | English | Spanish | Vietnamese |)

COVID-19 Decision Tree- English


      Refer to the following COVID-19 resources for childcare providers and programs:

      COVID-19 Decision Tree- English

      An outbreak of COVID-19 is when at least three suspected, probable, or confirmed COVID-19 cases are reported within a 14-day period among people who are epidemiologically linked in the setting, and are not known to be close contacts of each other in any other case investigation. 


      Report to your Regional Licensing Office 

      Report ONLY outbreaks to your Regional Licensing Office. 

      • Find which Regional Licensing Office you are required to report to. Depending on your zip code, you will have to report to the regional office in either San Jose or Oakland. 

      • Notify your Regional Licensing Office immediately of the outbreak by email or phone during normal business hours. 

        Refer to the following resources for current TK-12 COVID-19 guidance:

        COVID-19 Decision Tree- English

        Each school/school district has a COVID-19 Designee, who serves as a communication link between the schools and the Public Health Department. Please visit the COVID-19 Designee Toolkit page for all resources needed by COVID-19 Designees in their support of the COVID-19 response in schools.

        The State of California’s Safe Schools for All Parent Page includes resources on testing, vaccine and mask safety, and childcare, and information on Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children (MIS-C). 

        How to Respond to a Case or Outbreak 

        When any cases, close contacts, or outbreaks are identified, refer to the following: 

        COVID-19 Decision Tree- English

        COVID-19 Reporting Requirements in TK-12 Schools 

        Schools shall promptly notify the Public Health Department when at least 5% of their school population—including students and staff—have reported suspected or confirmed COVID-19 over a 14-day period. 

        Once schools identify that 5% of their school population has new suspected or new confirmed COVID-19 over a 14-days period, they must:

        Schools shall notify Public Health again if the percentage passes 10%, 15%, 20% and any additional multiple of 5 OR if the percentage falls below 5% and then hits 5% again.

        Schools are encouraged to use the Designee Reporting Calendar Spreadsheet to track the percentage of new suspected or new confirmed cases in their school population over 14 days.


        How to Report Cases

        If you do NOT have an existing SPOT account linked to the location you are reporting for, submit a SPOT Intake Form to report case information.  

        If you have an existing SPOT account linked to the location you are reporting for, you may report case information by logging into SPOT and reporting cases directly to the Location Account. Please click “Existing Users” to log in and navigate to the “Report Cases and Contacts” section of SPOT to submit new case information for the appropriate location from the drop-down list. 

        County reporting requirements will not be fully met until you submit case information for all positive individuals involved in the suspected outbreak.  


        Resources for Reporting to SPOT 


        School Portal for Outbreak Tracking (SPOT)

          NOTE: Each FAQ is followed by a parenthetical indicating whether it applies to TK-12 schools, childcare programs, or both.

          Are face masks required? (TK-12; Childcare Programs) 

          Schools and childcare programs may choose to require face coverings when indoors and/or outdoors. 

          The County of Santa Clara Health Officer and California Department of Public Health strongly recommend everyone to wear face masks when indoors.  

          NOTE: Although The State of California no longer requires masks in schools or childcare facilities, face masks are still required to be worn, and provided, in certain situations by the State of California’s Guidance for the Use of Face Coverings , a County Health Order Requiring Use of Face Coverings in Higher-Risk Settings, and Cal/OSHA’s Emergency Temporary Standards.  

          Are portable air purifiers helpful in reducing COVID-19 transmission risk? (TK-12; Childcare Programs) 

          Portable air purifiers can provide additional protection from COVID-19 exposure, depending on the type of filter used and the clean air delivery rate. Multiple devices per classroom may be necessary. For more information, please see CDPH’s recommendations for COVID-19 and Improving Indoor Air Quality in Schools

          Facility maintenance staff may also review CDPH’s document of technical considerations for ventilation and filtration


          At what AQI level should longer, passive activities (such as prolonged instruction) be moved indoors? (TK-12;  Childcare Programs)

          The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommend that unusually sensitive people consider reducing prolonged or heavy exertion when the Air Quality Index (AQI) is between 51-100 and that all children and teenagers reduce prolonged or heavy exertion when the AQI is above 100. However, there are no specific guidelines for the AQI thresholds for moving passive activity (such as outdoor educational instruction) indoors. 
          We recommend moving longer, passive activities (e.g., prolonged outdoor educational instruction) indoors when the AQI is 101 or higher. Windows and doors should be kept closed when the AQI is 101 or higher. 


          At what AQI level should short periods of outdoor activity be moved indoors? (TK-12; Childcare Programs) 

          The CDC and EPA recommend that unusually sensitive people consider reducing prolonged or heavy exertion when the AQI is between 51-100 and that all children and teenagers reduce prolonged or heavy exertion when the AQI is above 100. 
          We recommend cancelling, rescheduling, or moving indoors all activities (active and passive, regardless of duration) when the AQI is 151 or higher. Windows and doors should be kept closed when the AQI is 101 or higher. 


          At what AQI level should schools consider closing and moving to remote instruction? (TK-12;  Childcare Programs) 

          There is no established cut-off level for air quality for school dismissals or closures. There is no clear evidence that children are safer from poor air quality at home than at school. Parents of students who have longer outdoor transit times to and from school, where they may have greater exposure, may consider alternative methods for transportation or keeping their child home even if the school remains open. 
          Two important mechanisms for decreasing risk of COVID-19 disease transmission in schools is to conduct educational instruction outdoors and to open doors and windows when indoors. If students must remain indoors with windows and doors closed due to poor air quality, then other measures to reduce risk of COVID-19 transmission become increasingly important including mechanical ventilation and filtration, portable air filters, and masking. 


          Are there recommendations for minimizing exposure to unhealthy air during pickup/drop off (e.g., health screenings before arrival)? (TK-12;  Childcare Programs) 

          When the AQI is 101 or higher, health screenings (if performed on campus) should be conducted upon arrival in the classroom/building rather than having students and staff waiting outdoors for screening. Schools may also consider having health screenings conducted before arriving on campus. 


          Where can I learn more about the Air Quality Index? (TK-12;  Childcare Programs) 



          What do employers and staff need to know about COVID-19 isolation? (TK-12; Childcare Programs) 

          Staff in schools or programs for children and youth should follow the isolation and quarantine guidelines in CDPH’s COVID-19 guidelines for the general public


          Do students/youth still need to quarantine if they were exposed to someone with COVID-19? (TK-12; Childcare Programs)  

          Exposed students should follow CDPH’s COVID-19 guidelines for the general public and may continue to attend school and extracurricular activities unless they develop symptoms or test positive for COVID-19. 

          They should also get tested 3-5 days after their last exposure and wear a well-fitting mask around others for 10 days. 


          If my child has a runny nose but no other symptoms of COVID-19, should he/she stay home from school? (TK-12)  

          If testing is available, it is recommended to test at the onset of runny nose. 

          It would be unlikely for a child to experience runny nose as the only symptom of COVID-19. If a child has a runny nose but no other symptoms of COVID-19, it would be reasonable to allow that child to remain at school, provided the child does not develop any other symptoms of COVID-19.  


          When can a symptomatic student return to school? (TK-12)  

          Before returning to school, a student with symptoms of COVID-19 should have either: 

          •  A negative COVID-19 test: If the student tests negative, they can return to school when at least 24 hours have passed since resolution of any fever (without the use of fever-reducing medications) and other symptoms have improved. The negative test result should be provided to the school, and a doctor’s note is not needed.  
          • OR a medical note that details an alternative explanation for the symptoms: A doctor’s note* is only valid for returning to school if:  
            • The student’s symptoms are identical to those of a documented underlying chronic condition (e.g., asthma, allergies, or diabetes); 
            • OR the healthcare provider determined, through a medical evaluation of the person, that there is an alternative, named diagnosis (e.g., Strep throat or hand foot and mouth disease) that explains the symptoms experienced.  
          • OR 10 days have passed since onset of symptoms, symptoms have improved, and student has been fever-free for 24 hours without the use of fever-reducing medications. 

          *For a doctor’s note to be valid documentation of the above situations, the doctor must provide a written explanation that includes all of the following: certification that a medical evaluation was completed; an alternative explanation for symptoms; and a statement that COVID-19 testing is not indicated.  


          When can a case or close contact return to school or childcare? (TK-12; Childcare Programs) 

          Individuals who tested positive for, or were exposed to, COVID-19 can return to school if they meet the criteria detailed in CDPH’s COVID-19 guidelines for the general public. Infected and exposed students should, and infected and exposed employees must, wear a well-fitting mask around others for a total of 10 days. 

          Individuals who refuse testing and/or evaluation should be treated as a COVID-19 case and can return based on the usual isolation criteria of 10 days after symptom onset and 24 hours after resolution of fever and improvement of other symptoms.  

          FDA-authorized antigen home tests are recommended for testing to return to school or childcare settings after COVID-19 exposure or during isolation.  

          Children under 2 years of age with COVID-19 infection must test negative to discontinue isolation after Day 51.

          1CDPH says that testing is not necessary for children under 2 to return to childcare after Day 5 of isolation, but Santa Clara County requires testing for children under 2 for return from isolation. This is the only area where Santa Clara County guidance differs from current CDPH Guidance for Child Care Providers and Programs


          How should we notify families of COVID-19 cases in the school or program? (TK-12; Childcare Programs) 

          CDPH recommends that schools: 

          • Notify students who were exposed to COVID-19 at school 

          • Notify the entire school community during times of high community transmission of COVID-19 

          CDPH strongly recommends that schools utilize (or begin transitioning to) the notification-based model provided in Group Tracing Approach to Students Exposed to COVID-19 in a K-12 setting. In this approach, students are notified of their exposure, test 3-5 days after, and stay in school unless they develop symptoms or test positive).  
          View a Sample Group Tracing Notification Letter to Parents/Guardians of Students Exposed to COVID-19 in School (updated 07/01/22) here: | English | Spanish | Vietnamese |


          Should students, teachers, and other school staff be routinely tested? (TK-12)  

          CDPH’s School Testing Overview outlines the State of California’s recommendations and support for testing of students, teachers, and other school staff. In addition to testing of symptomatic individuals and close contacts, screening testing can be helpful in preventing COVID-19 transmission on campus. 

          Note that in CDPH’s COVID-19 Public Health Guidance for K-12 Schools, 2022-2023 School Year, antigen tests are recommended as the primary option for detecting COVID-19 in schools, compared to PCR tests.  

          Are schools allowed to release personally identifiable information, including health information, from students’ education records to the County Public Health Department without parental or student consent? (TK-12)  

          The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) is a federal law that protects the privacy of student education records, which generally includes all student information in the possession of schools. In general, school districts and public schools (and other schools receiving federal funds) must obtain consent from a parent or guardian before disclosing personally identifiable information from students’ education records. But exceptions to FERPA’s general consent rule allow schools to share certain records and information without prior consent in certain circumstances.  

          The U.S. Department of Education confirms that schools can share information without prior consent when, in connection with an emergency such as the current COVID-19 pandemic, sharing information with public health officials is necessary to protect the health or safety of students or other individuals. This may include information such as whether a student has tested positive for COVID-19, their household contacts, and their parents’ or guardians’ contact information. 

          View all past County of Santa Clara Public Health Orders

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