COVID-19 Health & Safety Update for Oct. 31
On Oct. 31, the governor’s COVID-19 emergency proclamations and state of emergency ends and many of the Department of Health’s (DOH) requirements for schools and child cares become recommendations.
Bellingham Public Schools continues to encourage staff and families to follow the public health strategies to limit the spread of COVID-19 which will work for other respiratory illnesses as well. These strategies include vaccinations, staying home when ill, masks, hand washing, ventilation and cleaning.
As we enter cold and flu season, we will remind students to cover their coughs and wash their hands and we advise parents/guardians to keep their child home if ill and return after being fever free for 24 hours and symptoms have improved. Please see our Health Services webpage for more information.
Reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19 and other respiratory infections, like RSV and influenza, by staying home when sick. Public health encourages testing for COVID-19 when experiencing symptoms or after exposure. Learn more about COVID-19 on the DOH and CDC websites.
We encourage people to follow public health guidance, What to do if you test positive for COVID-19. We acknowledge this is a recommendation and not a requirement and trust families to make the decision that is right for them.
If you test positive, the health department recommends:
- Isolate at home for 5 days from symptom onset (or positive test collection if no symptoms).
- Leave isolation if 24 hours fever free and symptoms improved. Wear a mask days 6-10.
- May remove mask soon than day 10 if two negative tests 24-48 hours apart.
Please continue to notify school of a positive test.
Call your health care provider or see the DOH website for consultation and a free telehealth visit for antiviral treatment if you qualify.
Rapid antigen testing for those experiencing symptoms or with a known exposure is available at all schools.
You can request, find and/or schedule a COVID-19 test at:
- Your school or the district office
- Your health care provider or pharmacy
- Whatcom County Health Department 360-778-6075
- By Mail: Order at https://sayyescovidhometest.org/ or https://www.covid.gov/tests
iHealth instructional video here
BPS will continue to partner with DOH and Health Commons Project to offer free COVID-19 testing at every school. This program provides students, staff, and families with quick and accurate COVID-19 testing as symptoms arise or following a known exposure. Currently, we have Bianax and CareStart rapid antigen tests available for onsite testing and iHealth rapid antigen test kits available for home use.
Expired tests can still be used. The Washington State Department of Health (DOH) released an official approval for the use of expired tests so long as the blue line shows up at the control "C" line. Learn more here, Expired COVID-19 Tests FAQ.
Information for students:
The COVID-19 vaccine is now authorized for children ages 6 months to 4 years old. The CDC strongly recommends that all eligible people ages 5 years and older receive an updated booster if at least two months since their last dose.
We encourage all families to consider immunizing their student against COVID-19 to protect their child’s and family’s health and also the health of our schools and community. View the Department of Health COVID-19 vaccine informational flyer "What Parents of Minors Should Know."
Vaccine facts from the CDC:
- COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective and help protect you from getting sick or severely ill with COVID-19.
- You may have side effects after vaccination, but these are normal.
- Vaccines are covered through health insurance. If you do not have health insurance you can still get vaccinated for free at the Health Department's clinics.
- It typically takes two weeks after vaccination for the body to build protection (immunity) against the virus that causes COVID-19. You are fully vaccinated two weeks after the second dose of a two-dose vaccine or two weeks after a one-dose vaccine.
- If you have already had COVID-19, the CDC recommends that you still get vaccinated against COVID-19.
Learn more facts about COVID-19 vaccines at the CDC website.
Fall clinic: Thursday, November 10
Bellingham Public Schools will host one COVID vaccine clinic this fall for families, staff and our community. Please join us Thursday, November 10, 2022 at Alderwood Elementary School, 2 p.m. - 5:30 p.m.. This clinic is for all ages, 6 months and up, and health insurance is not required. Please bring documentation of previous doses, if possible.
All appointments have been filled. Some walk ups may be available.
Vaccine appointments in the community:
The Whatcom County Health Department has weekly clinics serving all ages and they are listed on their website. No insurance is required at these clinics.
Here are some other options:
- Both Rite Aid and Walgreens have many open appointments and you can schedule online.
- If you are a SeaMar patient or don’t have a provider, the Cordata clinic has walk-up vaccines available (no appointments needed). Find more information here.
- If you are a PeaceHealth patient, you should be able to get a vaccine during a regular office visit using the online patient portal.
- Haggen’s pharmacies have walk-ups and online scheduling (plus you get 10% off your grocery purchase). You can call ahead to be sure they have vaccine.
Call Washington State Department of Health’s COVID-19 hotline at 1-833-VAX-HELP (833-829-4357) for assistance. They can tell you which locations near you offer the COVID-19 vaccine, and help you schedule an appointment if needed. This line also has Spanish, Russian, Punjabi and other language options.
Students and staff are still asked to notify schools if they test positive for COVID-19.
Our health services team will determine if the person was at school contagious and update the district's COVID-19 dashboard.
We will continue to monitor for outbreaks. In the event of an outbreak, we will follow WCHD outbreak response requirements.
Students and staff exposed to COVID-19 may continue to come to school. We encourage staff and families to follow the public health recommendations, What to do if you were potentially exposed to someone with confirmed COVID-19.
If exposed, the health department recommends:
- Get tested 3-5 days after exposure. If negative, test every 24-48 hours for at least 3 tests.
- Watch for symptoms.
- Wear a mask for 10 days after exposure.
Correct use of well-fitting masks protects the wearer as well as others which reduces the risk of spreading the virus that causes COVID-19. While masks are no longer universally required, there will be times when masks are worn:
- Masks are still required in school health/nurse rooms for staff and students.
- There may be situations when the WCHD requires masks such as during an outbreak.
- Students and staff may choose to wear a mask at school and mask choices will be respected. Individuals who are immunocompromised, medically fragile or otherwise at high risk for severe disease, should consult their health care provider about whether to wear a mask.
We will continue to offer well-fitting masks to staff and students who choose to wear a mask.
Masks will continue to be a useful tool in preventing the spread of respiratory illnesses. BPS is committed to supporting staff, students and their families in their choice to wear a mask and fostering respect and kindness towards each other. Key points from the mask lessons from the 2021-2022 school year include:
- There are many reasons why someone may choose to wear or not wear a mask, and those reasons may change over time.
- Show mutual respect, concern and kindness to one another.
- Understand that each person’s needs and story are unique and valuable.
- Tell an adult if you witness or experience mistreatment or bullying related to masking.
If mask-wearing is part of a health plan or individual education plan (504 or IEP), then staff are asked to help enforce the health/education plan. Otherwise, we encourage families to talk with their child about mask-wearing expectations and preferences. Staff will not be responsible for tracking and monitoring individual family mask-wearing preferences.