The Kankakee County Health Department is advising local schools to follow recent back-to-school guidance which was released by the CDC and backed by the Illinois Department of Public Health and Illinois State Board of Education.

According to a Thursday news release from the KCHD, schools should continue COVID-19 mitigation efforts, including masking when indoors, though masking can be optional for those providing proof that they are fully vaccinated.

The KCHD also specifies that those fully vaccinated are not required to quarantine if they are exposed to a positive COVID-19 case.

“If you can, please get vaccinated,” the release states, noting that vaccines are now widely available for individuals 12 and older.

The CDC’s guidance includes:

• Masks should be worn indoors by all individuals (age 2 and older) who are not fully vaccinated.

• The CDC recommends schools maintain at least 3 feet of physical distance between students within classrooms, combined with indoor mask-wearing by people who are not fully vaccinated, to reduce transmission risk.

• When it is not possible to maintain a physical distance of at least 3 feet, such as when schools cannot fully reopen while maintaining these distances, it is especially important to layer multiple other prevention strategies, such as indoor masking.

• Screening testing, ventilation, handwashing, and respiratory etiquette, staying home when sick and getting tested, contact tracing in combination with quarantine and isolation, and cleaning and disinfection are also important layers of prevention to keep schools safe.

• Many schools serve children under the age of 12 who are not eligible for vaccination currently. Therefore, this guidance emphasizes implementing layered prevention strategies (masking, distancing, testing) to protect people who are not fully vaccinated.