COVID-19 vaccine

The vaccine is available to everyone 12 and older! Find a City-run vaccine clinic or partner vaccine clinic to protect yourself and your loved ones. If you have questions about vaccination, call (215) 685-5488.

Schools and early childhood education guidance

Schools and early childhood education guidance

The following is intended as a plain-language summary of rules during the COVID-19 emergency and does not replace the need to follow all applicable federal, state, and local laws and regulations.

Note: For information about childcare and early childhood education settings, please see the section at the bottom of this page.


This content was last updated on May 21, 2021.

A safe return to school is essential for Philadelphia children to continue to learn and thrive. Keeping students and staff safe during COVID-19 is of the utmost priority. Schools may provide in-person instruction for kindergarten through high school.

The following guidelines will help schools decrease the risk of COVID-19 for students and staff. This guidance also applies to programs that provide childcare for school-aged children after school or during the day. The guidance provided are a set of baseline or minimum recommendations based on guidelines from the Philadelphia Department of Public Health (PDPH), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the Pennsylvania Department of Education. Childcare and early childhood education centers guidance is also available on this website.

The detailed guidance is categorized by the following key practices:

  • Enforce universal and correct use of masks on all staff and students > 2yrs of age
  • Promote physical distancing
  • Handwashing and respiratory etiquette
  • Cleaning and maintaining healthy facilities
  • Contact tracing in combination with isolation and quarantine, in collaboration with the Health Department
  • Additional COVID-19 prevention in schools

As the COVID-19 pandemic in Philadelphia evolves, there may be additional changes to the guidance, so please connect to the COVID-19 texts (text COVIDPHL to 888-777) to have the most up-to-date information.

Enforce universal and correct use of masks


Face masks help to prevent the transmission of COVID-19.  Learn more about why, when, and how to wear a mask (PDF).


  • Require all staff to wear face masks that completely cover nose and mouth, regardless of vaccination status, with the exception of during meals. If using a disposable face mask, staff and students should use a new face mask each day. If wearing a cloth face mask, it should be laundered every day.
  • Students should wear face masks that completely cover nose and mouth, regardless of vaccination status. Face masks are most important when indoors, especially when physical distancing is difficult. Wearing face masks may be more challenging for younger students and enforcement of this policy should be developmentally appropriate. For students unable to tolerate a face mask, a face shield is an acceptable alternative. Asthma is not a contraindication to wearing a face mask.
  • Face masks should not be placed on:
    • Anyone who has trouble breathing or is unconscious.
    • Anyone who is incapacitated or otherwise unable to remove the cloth face mask without assistance.
  • For teachers and staff who work with multiple students who cannot wear face masks, additional barriers such as plexiglass, face shield in addition to face masks, and eye protection (goggles) may be considered.
  • Students may remove their face masks during mealtimes, and when outdoors and greater than 6 feet apart from other students. “Mask breaks” should be brief (less than 15 minutes).
  • Students should be encouraged to make sure their face masks cover their nose and mouth at all times. Students should be taught to use the edges of the face mask to adjust fit and avoid touching the front of the face mask to prevent hand contamination.
  • Students should be encouraged to put on a clean face mask each day (either launder previously used face mask or replace disposable face mask).
  • Schools should have supply of masks to give to students who arrive to school without a mask or if a student’s or teacher’s mask becomes damaged during the school day.
  • Parents/caregivers should wear face masks at arrival and dismissal times and wait for their children outside of the school building (see transportation guidance below).
  • School bus drivers, playground monitors and other volunteer staff should wear face masks at all times in the school building and when interacting with school staff and students.
  • Staff should wear gloves along with a face mask when preparing food.

Promote physical distancing

Alter school procedures and schedules to minimize contact among students and staff.

  • In order to reduce the risk of transmission, schools should both promote physical distancing as well as employ strategies that reduce the number of people in close contact with one another. Physical distance of 3 feet is recommended for all settings. According to CDC recommendations, students may decrease distance to 3 feet. Adults (teachers/staff/visitors) must remain 3 feet apart from other adults and students. Physical distance of 6 feet is recommended for all participants in extracurricular activities.
  • Schools should have as few individuals in a classroom as possible in order to maintain the recommended 3 feet distance.
  • Create and adhere to a “class cohort” where the same students stay in the same classroom throughout the day with the same primary teacher. Specialty and subject matter teachers (ex: music, art) should rotate between classrooms instead of students rotating. If students must rotate to a classroom with specialized equipment (ex: science lab), stagger transition times to avoid overcrowding in the hallways.
  • Consider using larger alternative spaces (ex: gymnasiums, auditoriums, cafeterias) to accommodate classes when class size cannot be reduced. These spaces may also be used to accommodate more than one cohort. When more than one cohort shares one of these larger alternative spaces, use partitions or other physical reminders to maintain separation.
  • Teachers should have their desks at least six feet from the nearest student desk and all student desks should be facing forward. Do not arrange desks in clusters.

School transportation guidance (buses, vans, taxis, etc.)

Schools and child facing programs can assist with the mitigation of COVID-19 on transportation by doing the following:

  • School buses may operate at 50% of maximum occupancy.
    • May seat persons behind the driver if barrier is present (plexiglass or plastic curtain). If no barrier is present passengers should sit at least two rows behind the driver.
    • Consider directional flow when loading and unloading the bus. For example, load back to front and unload front to back.
    • Stagger seating. Passengers should alternate occupying the window and aisle seats. Use markers to designate which seats are unavailable.
    • Seat household members together in the same seat when possible.
    • All passengers should face forward when bus is operating.
  • Open windows in buses and other school vehicles, if doing so does not pose a safety risk . According to CDC guidance, “even cracking windows open a few inches improves air circulation.” If the vehicle has air conditioning, do not use the “recirculate” mode.
  • Maintain records of seating charts. Schools should reference transportation records when identifying close contacts of recently identified COVID -19 positive individuals.
  • Consider having spare masks to ensure passengers are wearing face masks on buses.
  • Encourage regular hand hygiene upon entering and exiting the vehicle. Provide hand sanitizer at least 60% alcohol at the entry of the school bus.

Extracurricular activities

  • Do not combine classes for enrichment activities, recess, or school assemblies. Stagger the use of common areas, such as playgrounds and multi-purpose rooms.
  • Extracurriculars that involve students from different classrooms can continue if social distancing and masking can be maintained during those activities.
  • Fieldtrips, including the use of outdoor playgrounds, may be permitted if class cohorts can be maintained.
  • There should be minimal sharing of equipment and supplies among students and staff. Items should be cleaned in between use.
  • Hand hygiene should be practiced before and after outdoor and group activities.
  • Limit the number of non-essential personnel visiting school buildings. This does NOT pertain to personnel who provide essential in-school services to students that would not otherwise be accessible to them. Use video streaming or outdoor activities to provide enrichment experiences from individuals who are not members of the school community. Maintain electronic records of all visitors’ contact information to help facilitate contact tracing in the event a case is identified.
  • Please refer to the Health Department’s sports and activities: youth, schools, and club sports guidance for outdoor activities and gyms and recreational facilities guidance for indoor athletic activities.
  • In-person choir, singing, and wind instrument lessons may be conducted if certain mitigation measures are in place to reduce the spread of respiratory droplets. Singers should be masked, be situated at least 6 feet away or greater from each other, and all facing in the same direction. Wind instrument players should use bell covers, be situated 6 feet away or greater from other players, and all facing in the same direction. Musicians should clean their own instruments regularly. Plexiglass barriers and/or eye protection may also be considered. In addition to masking, face shields may be considered for added protection.
  • Lessons and practices should be conducted outdoors or in well-ventilated areas. Attendance of participants should be taken to facilitate contact tracing in the event a case is identified.
  • Please refer to the Health Department’s indoor live theater, music venue, and movie theater guidance for in-person musical and theatrical performances. Serving food and beverages is not recommended. A limit of one audience attendee per student performer is recommended.

Minimize contact and crowding during arrival and dismissal times

  • Set up hand hygiene stations at the entrance of the facility, so that students and staff can clean their hands before they enter. If a sink with soap and water is not available, provide hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol at entrance.
  • Require all parents to wear face masks at pick up and drop off.
  • Consider the following options to avoid over-crowding during arrival and dismissal times:
    • Assign staggered arrival and dismissal times for students by grade.
    • If staffing allows, have staff greet students outside as they arrive and escort them to their classrooms and escort students to exit during drop-off.
    • If conducting on-site daily health screens (see below), have students wait 6 feet apart (can use space marker) while waiting to complete the screen.
  • For students who take a school bus, create social distance between children on school buses where possible (ex: one child per seat, keep the row behind the bus driver empty). Encourage children to keep face mask on during transport to school by bus or other public transportation. Encourage students to clean their hands after departing from school bus or public transportation. Maintain electronic roster of children by bus route to help facilitate contact tracing.
  • For staff and students who must use carpools, encourage driver and passengers who do not live together to wear a face mask when sharing a vehicle. Recommend using hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol before and after entering the vehicle. Recommend limiting the number of passengers in the vehicle to only those necessary. If possible, passengers should sit as far as possible from the driver, such as in the rear seat diagonally across from the driver. Recommend improving ventilation by opening the windows or setting the air ventilation/air conditioning on non-recirculation mode.
  • For staff and students who take public transportation:
    • The CDC REQUIRES face masks to be worm by all travelers while on public transportation. Masks should completely cover the traveler’s mouth and nose while awaiting, boarding disembarking, or traveling on trains, ferries, subways, buses, taxis, and ride shares. They must also wear a face mask while at transportation hubs. Please refer to the CDC order for more details.
    • Travelers should practice hand hygiene before and after using public transportation.

Implement additional food safety procedures

  • Students and staff should be encouraged to bring food and/or water bottles from home when possible.
  • Staff should wash their hands before preparing and distributing food.
  • Buffet or family-style serving should not be used. Provide individually wrapped items or plate each student’s meal to serve it so that multiple students are not using the same serving utensils.
  • Students should wash hands with soap and water or alcohol-based hand sanitizer prior to and immediately after eating.
  • Maintain at least 6-feet distance between students during mealtimes. Possible strategies include:
    • Students should eat at their desks in their classroom, maintaining 6 feet of distance
    • Consider alternate spaces for meals, such as outdoor areas or large indoor rooms, if safe food handling and clean-up practices can be observed.
    • Stagger the use of the cafeteria and other mealtime spaces so that all students can maintain social distance from the others and that class cohorts eat together to avoid mixing of classes. If a cafeteria must be used, use seat markers to designate where students should sit. To help facilitate contact tracing in the event a positive case is identified, use seating charts with assigned seats. Minimize the number of students per table and discourage sharing of food.
  • Sinks used for food preparation should not be used for any other purposes.

Mealtimes are one of the most common times we have seen staff-to-staff transmission of COVID-19. 


  • For staff:
    • Remind staff that they should limit the amount of time that they are not wearing a face mask and that they should continue to wear their face masks while in the break room when not actively eating.
    • Stagger break and lunch hours for staff to minimize interactions.
    • Space chairs in break rooms to maintain > 6 feet distance and position chairs so that employees do not sit opposite or next to each other while eating.
    • Post signs alerting employees to maintain distance and avoid eating near or across from each other.

Hand cleaning and respiratory etiquette

Promote hand hygiene

  • Hand hygiene should be practiced at the following times:
    • Entry to the facility, to the classroom, and after breaks.
    • Before and after eating.
    • Before and after preparing food and drinks.
    • Before and after medication administration.
    • After using the toilet.
    • After coughing, sneezing, or blowing their nose.
    • After playing outdoors.
    • Before and after group activities.
  • Use soap and water for hand hygiene when hands are visibly soiled, after toileting, and before/after eating. Performing hand hygiene with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
  • At other times, and if soap and water are not available, an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol can be used.

Cleaning and maintaining healthy facilities

  • Although transmission from a contaminated environment is an uncommon mode of transmission, sites should continue to maintain a cleaning schedule. Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces within the school and school buses at least twice daily (mid-day and end of the day). This includes tables, desktops, chairs, doorknobs/handles, light switches, remote controls, countertops, handles, desks, phones, keyboards, toilets, faucets, and sinks. The CDC has steps for cleaning and disinfecting.
  • Facilities should use cleaning products that are EPA-approved for use against COVID-19. Store all cleaning products securely and out of the reach of children.

Optimize ventilation when possible


Increasing ventilation is an additional safety step and not a replacement for wearing face masks, keeping a safe distance from each other, reducing crowd sizes, installing droplet barriers, handwashing, and other safety precautions.


  • If possible, increase ventilation in the building by either:
    • Opening windows and/or doors on opposite sides of the building and consider using fans to blow outside air through the building; OR
    • Optimizing ventilation provided by the heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) system by:
      • Having the HVAC system checked to assure that it is working properly. If it can be adjusted, the system should be set to provide at least 6 air exchanges per hour if possible or the maximum possible setting.
      • Maximizing the amount of outside air circulated by the system.
      • Installing filters with minimum efficiency reporting values (MERV) of 13, or the highest compatible with the filter rack.
      • Checking that the external air inlet duct is not blocked and that it is at least 15 feet from persons.
  • Store all cleaning products securely and out of the reach of children.

Contact tracing in combination with isolation and quarantine in collaboration with the Health Department

  • In order to continue to make public safety recommendations, the Health Department’s COVID Containment team has been tracking patterns of transmission in schools, daycares, and other settings.

Student and staff screening

  • All facilities should create a daily screening checklist for students and staff which includes screening for fever, symptoms, exposure and a visual inspection. Parents and guardians should either complete the screener with the student or on their behalf. The Health Department has developed a COVID-19 sample screening tool.
  • All school staff should help reduce the risk of in-school COVID transmission by identifying any colleagues and students who appear to be ill. Schools should educate staff and parents on how to monitor symptoms at home every day. If an individual screens positive, they should not enter the facility. A designated school staff person may collect this daily screening information (via paper, app, or web) to ensure sick individuals do not enter the facility. On-site screening of symptoms and exposure history may be helpful for MDS classrooms.
  • A screening protocol should include the following components:
    • Fever: If either a child or staff member has a temperature of 100.4 or higher, they should remain home. The following options can be considered for temperature monitoring. Please note that temperature measurements may be affected by the environmental temperature. Please consult the device manufacturer’s instructions for optimal use. Oral thermometers should not be used for on-site temperature screening.
    • Symptoms: If a child or staff member has symptoms of COVID-like illness, the child or staff-member should return or remain home.
  • COVID-like illness is defined as:
    At least ONE of these major symptoms OR At least TWO of these
    minor symptoms
    new or persistent cough

    shortness of breath

    new loss of sense of smell

    new loss of sense of taste

    fever

    chills

    muscle pain

    headache

    sore throat

    nausea/vomiting

    diarrhea

    fatigue

    congestion/runny nose

    • Visual Inspection: If a child has signs of illness, which could include flushed cheeks, rapid breathing or difficulty breathing (without recent physical activity), fatigue, or extreme fussiness, cough, or shortness of breath, the child should stay home.
    • Exposure: If a staff member or child has been exposed to anyone with a confirmed case of COVID-19 in the past 10 days, they should return or remain home.  The Health Department has developed a sample test result letter to be given to caregivers explaining why the child is being dismissed and criteria for returning to the facility.

Plan for when someone becomes sick or potentially exposed to COVID-19


Encourage staff and parents to talk to their own and their children’s physicians about their individual risk factors for COVID-19 and the risks of working at or attending school. We strongly recommend flexibility and accommodations for staff who are at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19, such as those 65 years and older and those with weakened immune systems.


  • Ensure facility has updated contact information (including date of birth, phone number, home address, grade level, and cohort) for all staff and families to facilitate contact tracing and rapid communication.
  • The Health Department has created a sample parent/guardian agreement that describes their commitment to keeping their children home when sick and seeking appropriate medical care.
  • Schools should designate an isolation room or area for anyone who experiences COVID-like symptoms. If using the nurse’s office, this area should be at least six feet apart from where other children or staff use the nurse’s office.  If possible, use screens or curtains to create a barrier between individuals who are ill and in nurse’s office.
    • Staff who develop symptoms of COVID-like illness should immediately be sent home. If they need to be picked up, they should wait in the designated isolation room or area while waiting.
    • If students develop symptoms, they should be brought to a designated isolation room while waiting to be picked up. The staff member waiting with the student should wear a surgical mask.

Quarantine and closure thresholds for schools

For the school setting we are defining close contacts as those individuals that have been within 6 feet for 15 minutes masked or unmasked.

SITUATION RESPONSE       
Single case of COVID-19 in a school or extracurricular cohort Those identified as a close contact will be asked to quarantine. School attendance for these individuals will be paused for 10 days. This may be shortened to 7 days with a negative test after day 5.
2 or more cases for a classroom/cohort The entire cohort/classroom must quarantine. The recommended quarantine is 10 days.*
2 or more cases in 2 or more classes of the same grade with an epidemiological link to the school (classroom or school hosted extracurricular activity) The entire grade must quarantine. The recommended quarantine is 10 days.*
Multiple cases in staff/students:

3 within 14 days with epi link

OR

6 or more within 14 days (regardless of source of exposure)

The entire school/child facing program must quarantine. The recommended quarantine is 10 days.*
Multiple COVID-19 clusters across grades The entire school/child facing program must quarantine. The recommended quarantine is 10 days.*
Single case of COVID-19 on a school athletic team The entire cohort/team must quarantine. The recommended quarantine is 10 days.*

* Quarantine may be shortened using a test-based strategy. Individuals who test negative after day 5 may return after day 7.

Quarantines and pauses of 7 and 10 days are contingent upon 100% mask usage except during distanced meals. Activities where masks cannot be worn, such as playing certain instruments, must be paused for the full 14 days. Symptom monitoring must continue for the entire 14 days regardless of vaccination status.

Fully vaccinated individuals are not required to quarantine. Testing after day 5 after an exposure or upon symptom onset is recommended. Fully vaccinated individuals with symptoms must isolate and be tested.


If you believe there was a COVID-19 case at your school (student or staff), call the Philadelphia Department of Public Health at (215) 685-5488 or send email to covid.schools@phila.gov for further instructions.


Common clinical scenarios

The Health Department will consult with you on COVID containment issues for your facility. Here are common clinical scenarios.

What is a COVID-like illness?

  • A COVID-like illness is when someone has at least 1 major symptom OR at least 2 minor symptoms (see table above). The major symptoms are new or persistent cough, shortness of breath, new loss of sense of smell, new loss of sense of taste. The minor symptoms are fever, chills, muscle pain, headache, sore throat, nausea/vomiting, diarrhea, fatigue, congestion/runny nose.

I have a COVID-like illness. I have been exposed to someone with COVID-19.

  • A probable case is when someone has been exposed to COVID-19 AND develops symptoms. Probable cases have a higher risk of spreading COVID-19 to others. COVID testing is strongly recommended. You may return to school after any of the following are true:
    • You test negative for COVID-19. You must meet the school’s normal criteria for return after an illness. You MUST still complete quarantine. Please see “I have been notified I am a close contact in a school setting.” OR
    • A clinician has evaluated you and documented an alternative diagnosis. You MUST still complete quarantine. Please see “I have been notified I am a close contact in a school setting.” OR
    • If ALL the following are true:
      • at least 10 days have passed since symptoms started, AND
      • you don’t have a fever for at least 24 hours without taking fever-reducing medicines, AND
      • symptoms are improving (some mild symptoms may linger).
  • COVID-19 shares many symptoms with other potentially contagious conditions. Even if you are not diagnosed with COVID-19, you should still follow you school’s normal illness policy.

I have a COVID-like illness. I have been vaccinated.

  • Although COVID vaccines are effective in preventing severe illness, it may still be possible to get milder COVID-19 and pass it on to others. If you have symptoms concerning for COVID, testing is strongly recommended.
  • You may return to school after any of the following are true:
    • You test negative for COVID-19. You must meet the school’s normal criteria for return after an illness. OR
    • A clinician has evaluated you, documented an alternative diagnosis, and verifies that you may return to school. A positive COVID test should NOT be attributed to vaccination. OR
    • If ALL the following are true:
      • at least 10 days have passed since symptoms started AND
      • you don’t have a fever for at least 24 hours without taking fever-reducing medicines AND
      • symptoms are improving (some mild symptoms may linger).
  • COVID-19 shares many symptoms with other potentially contagious conditions. Even if you are not diagnosed with COVID-19, you should still follow you school’s normal illness policy.

I tested positive for COVID-19. I am NOT immunocompromised. I do NOT have severe COVID-19.

  • A case is when someone tests positive for COVID-19. By law, cases of COVID must be reported to the local department of public health. If you have symptoms, you may return to school 10 days after symptoms started, you don’t have a fever for at least 24 hours without taking fever-reducing medicines, and symptoms are improving (some mild symptoms may linger). If you do not have symptoms you may return to school 10 days after the COVID test was performed.
  • The COVID-19 positive individual does NOT need a repeat COVID test or a doctor’s note to return to school.
  • Close contacts must be identified and notified – please see “Who is considered is a close contact in a school setting?” below.

I tested positive for COVID-19. I am immunocompromised or I have had severe COVID-19.

  • This is still considered a case. Please consult CDC guidance, PDPH, or your medical provider to determine if you considered SEVERELY immunocompromised or have had severe COVID-19. If you are SEVERELY immunocompromised or have had severe COVID-19, isolation should be extended to at least 20 days.

I tested positive for COVID-19. I have previously tested positive for COVID.

  • If the two test dates are greater than 90 days apart, the second test is considered a new case, and you should isolate. Please refer to the instructions for isolation above.
  • if the test dates are between 45 and 90 days, you do not need to isolate but you should monitor your symptoms. If you develop symptoms, you should be evaluated by a medical provider.
  • If the two test dates within 45 days apart, the second positive test likely represents the shedding of bits of the virus, but you are not likely infectious. You do not need to isolate.

I tested positive for COVID-19. I have been vaccinated.

  • A breakthrough case is when someone who is fully vaccinated is diagnosed with COVID. A breakthrough case is treated the same as a case. Please see “I tested positive for COVID-19” above. Vaccination does NOT cause someone to test positive for COVID-19.

I tested positive for COVID-19. I am an essential worker.

  • This is still considered a case. Please see guidance above.

I tested positive for COVID-19. I was wearing a mask while at school.

  • This is still considered a case. Please see guidance above.

Who is considered a close contact in a school setting?

  • The Health Department currently considers students and staff as close contacts when they fall into tier 1 (highest risk of transmission) per CDC guidance (see table 2). The infectious period begins 2 days before the individual with COVID-19 became symptomatic (for asymptomatic individuals, 2 days before testing was performed). The infectious period goes through the duration of the case’s isolation.
  • Regardless of facemask use, students, teachers, and staff who were within 6 feet apart from the individual with COVID-19 for a total of 15 minutes or more during the infections period are close contacts. To identify close contacts, schools should maintain records of students seating charts in classrooms and lunchrooms and involvement in athletics, extracurriculars, and transportation. Schools should limit congregation in hallways, at lockers, and in any other communal space.
  • In-person activities for close contacts must be paused for 10 days following last exposure. This may be shortened to 7 days if the close contact tests negative after day 5.

What are the criteria for pausing in-school instruction and activities?

  • Schools must follow Health Department recommendations for closure and pausing in-person activities. School closings for nonpublic schools will be based on evidence of COVID-19 transmission in the school or community, introductions of COVID-19 to the school that represent an exposure risk to the school community.
SITUATION RESPONSE       
Single case of COVID-19 in a school or extracurricular cohort Those identified as a close contact will be asked to quarantine. School attendance for these individuals will be paused for 10 days. This may be shortened to 7 days with a negative test after day 5.
2 or more cases for a classroom/cohort The entire cohort/classroom must quarantine. The recommended quarantine is 10 days.*
2 or more cases in 2 or more classes of the same grade with an epidemiological link to the school (classroom or school hosted extracurricular activity) The entire grade must quarantine. The recommended quarantine is 10 days.*
Multiple cases in faculty/staff:

3 within 14 days with epi link

OR

6 or more within 14 days (regardless of source of exposure)

The entire school/child facing program must quarantine. The recommended quarantine is 10 days.*
Multiple COVID-19 clusters across grades The entire school/child facing program must quarantine. The recommended quarantine is 10 days.*
Single case of COVID-19 on a school athletic team The entire cohort/team must quarantine. The recommended quarantine is 10 days.*

* Quarantine may be shortened using a test-based strategy. Individuals who test negative after day 5 may return after day 7.

Quarantines and pauses of 7 and 10 days are contingent upon 100% mask usage except during distanced meals. Activities where masks cannot be worn, such as playing certain instruments, must be paused for the full 14 days. Symptom monitoring must continue for the entire 14 days regardless of vaccination status.

Fully vaccinated individuals are not required to quarantine. Testing after day 5 after an exposure or upon symptom onset is recommended. Fully vaccinated individuals with symptoms must isolate and be tested.

I have been notified I am a close contact in a school setting.

  • Close contacts should self-quarantine. Quarantine means an individual stays home for 10 days after last contact with someone who has COVID-19, watch for symptoms like fever, cough, shortness of breath, or new loss of taste or smell, and stay away from others as much as possible. See calculating isolation and quarantine period (PDF).

I have been notified I am a close contact in a school setting. I have tested negative for COVID-19.

  • Quarantine may be shortened to 7 days if the student/staff member tests negative for COVID-19. The test should be done no more than 48 hours before they plan to leave quarantine. See calculating isolation and quarantine period.

I have been notified I am a close contact in a school setting. I have been vaccinated.

  • You do NOT need to quarantine after close contact with someone with COVID-19 if ALL are true:
    • You are fully vaccinated. That means it’s been at least 2 weeks atter the final dose in your vaccine series (2 shots for Pfizer and Moderna, 1 shot for Johnson & Johnson) ;
    • You have not had COVID symptoms; AND
    • You are NOT hospitalized or living in a long-term care facility.

I have been notified I am a close contact in a school setting. I have symptoms.

  • A probable case is when someone has been exposed to COVID-19 AND develops symptoms. Please see “I have a COVID-like illness. I have been exposed to someone with COVID-19.” above.

I have been notified I am a close contact in a school setting. I have been vaccinated. I have symptoms.

  • Although COVID vaccines are effective in preventing severe illness, it may still be possible to get milder COVID-19 and pass it on to others. You should still be evaluated for a COVID-like illness.
  • If you have symptoms concerning for COVID, testing is strongly recommended. Please see “I have a COVID-like illness. I have been vaccinated.” above for criteria to return to school.

I have been notified I am a close contact in a school setting. Do I need to be tested?

  • Testing is strongly recommended. PDPH recommends testing for COVID if you become symptomatic or after 5 days following an exposure. Testing too early may result in a false negative.

I am a close contact of a close contact.

  • A secondary contact is someone who was in close contact with someone else who was exposed to COVID. For example, this could be the classmate of an asymptomatic student whose sibling has COVID. Quarantine is not recommended for secondary contacts.
  • However, recommendations may change if the primary contact ends up becoming symptomatic or tests positive for COVID.

Cleaning/disinfecting after a COVID case or COVID-like illness:

  • Clean and disinfect all areas used by the person who is sick, such as classroom, offices, bathrooms, and common areas.
  • Clean and disinfect surfaces in your isolation room or area and in the classroom where the sick child or staff member was after the sick child or staff member has gone home.

Additional COVID-19 prevention in schools

COVID-19 testing

The Health Department recommends getting tested for COVID-19 if:

  • You have been exposed to someone with COVID-19 (wait until 5-7 days after exposure to ensure test accuracy) OR
  • You have symptoms of COVID-19:
    • At least ONE of the following: new or persistent cough, shortness of breath, new loss of sense of smell/taste;
      OR
    • At least TWO of the following: fever, chills, muscle pain, headache, sore throat, nausea/vomiting, diarrhea, fatigue, congestion/runny nose.

Vaccination for teachers and staff

In Philadelphia, teachers, school support staff, and childcare workers are eligible for COVID vaccination. The Health Department is working with community and hospital partners to vaccinate these personnel.

Childcare and early childhood education centers

ECE facilities should follow the PA Office of Child Development and Early Learning (OCDEL) protocols where applicable, including reporting requirements.

Napping/Resting

  • Increase the space between cribs and rest mats to maximize the space between children. The cribs and rest mats should be 3 feet apart if space permits. Consider having children nap in head-to-feet positioning to maximize space between children’s faces.
  • Use bedding (sheets, pillows, blankets, sleeping bags) that can be washed. Keep each child’s bedding separate, and consider storing in individually labeled bins, cubbies, or bags. Cots and mats should be labeled for each child. Bedding that touches a child’s skin should be cleaned at least weekly or before use by another child.

Hand hygiene

  • Children should be supervised by an adult when using hand sanitizer to avoid accidental ingestion or contact of hand sanitizer with their eyes. For younger children, staff should apply the sanitizer and rub the children’s hands until they are dry.

Face masks

  • Face masks should not be placed on:
    • Babies and children younger than 2 years old.
    • Anyone who has trouble breathing or is unconscious.
    • Anyone who is incapacitated or otherwise unable to remove the cloth face mask without assistance.
    • Anyone during naptime.

Additional resources


  • Text COVIDPHL to 888-777 to receive updates to your phone.
  • Call (800) 722-7112 to speak to a health care professional on the Greater Philadelphia Coronavirus Helpline.

Top