Throughout the pandemic, the Health Department has updated its guidance based on the latest science, the latest CDC recommendations, and what’s actually happening in Philadelphia. There have been a lot of questions about how to keep students and staff safe in schools, especially as we learn more about COVID and the latest variant.


  • Students should continue to wear well fitted masks.
  • Cloth masks alone are no longer considered to be effective enough to protect against Omicron. A surgical mask or respirator, like a KN95 offers better protection than a cloth mask.
  • Double masking with a cloth mask over a surgical mask adds protection.
  • If feasible, surgical masks or respirators (KN95, KF94, or, for older children N95) could be made available to those who want to wear them in schools.
  • For those children or adults who have difficulty tolerating other masks, a cloth mask remains preferable to no mask. People should wear the most effective mask that they can keep in place over their nose and mouth consistently.

Isolation and Quarantine

  • Local education agencies that can implement all recommended layers of mitigation can switch to 5-day isolation/quarantine for students with strict masking for an additional 5 days, after consultation with and approval by PDPH.
  • These layers include: ventilation, contact tracing for high risk exposures, an area where students, teachers, and staff can eat while removing their mask from days 6-10 that is separated from others, screening testing, and strict masking.
  • Local education agencies that cannot implement the recommended layers noted above must maintain a 10-day isolation/quarantine period for students.
  • For teachers and other staff members, our new guidance allows for return after 5 days if rapid tests are negative on days 5 and 6 (they can return on day 6 after testing negative that morning).

Contact tracing

  • We recommend that contact tracing be reserved for higher risk exposures, meaning those that occur in unmasked settings such as lunch.

Screening Testing

  • Ten percent of a school’s unvaccinated population should be tested weekly to allow schools to be eligible to follow the 5-day quarantine/isolation guidance.

Pausing in-person learning

  • Given the current widespread community transmission currently occurring at this time, we will no longer use case numbers to determine when to pause in-person learning. Instead, schools will continue in-person learning unless staff absences due to COVID-19 isolation or quarantine require a temporary pause.

We know that this is one of the most stressful times of the pandemic, and we all want our children to be safe. We will continue to look for ways to beat back this pandemic, to keep our children safe, and to come through this together.

In addition to following this guidance, the best way to keep our children safe is by getting them, and ourselves vaccinated. Anyone who is eligible should be vaccinated and receive all recommended doses.