RALEIGH — The N.C. Department of Health and Human Services quietly issued a memo sunsetting its COVID-19 guidance toolkit for K-12 schools.
“As of June 23, 2022, NCDHHS has sunset the StrongSchools NC Public Health Toolkit. Going forward, school administrators, staff, and families should now refer to the CDC’s Operational Guidance for K12 Schools for information on how to lower risk of COVID-19 in school settings,” the memo issued by N.C. Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS) reads.
NCDHHS did not issue a press release or similar, instead N.C. State Superintendent Catherine Truitt broke the news on social media.
“Effective today, @ncdhhs will be sunsetting the NC StrongSchools Toolkit. Going forward, school administrators, staff, and families should refer to the @CDCgov’s Operational Guidance for K12 Schools for information on how to lower the risk of COVID-19,” Truitt tweeted.
During state board of education meetings over the last year, Truitt consistently pressed NCDHHS officials for more details behind its metrics, particularly on mask wearing, as well as calling for an end to the use of the toolkit.
NCDHHS’ June 23 memo outlined CDC guidance “highlights” for K-12 schools including it no longer being recommended schools require staff to report vaccination status or be required to regularly get tested if unvaccinated.
Additionally, the CDC has dropped universal contact tracing and social distancing rules.
The CDC’s Operational Guidance says masking is optional at all levels of transmission but wearing a mask is “recommended” if levels are “high” on the CDC’s COVID-19 community level scale.
The CDC’s community levels were rolled out earlier this year and are based on whichever had the higher rate; new admissions or inpatient beds metrics. This level is calculated by first looking at whether an area has fewer than 200 new cases per 100,000 people in the last seven days. The community level is then determined by taking new admissions and inpatient beds and indicators using the scale for the area’s number for new cases.
Since its implementation early on during the pandemic, parents have complained the StrongSchools toolkit was confusing and overly relied on by districts. The toolkit was also used by former NCDHHS Secretary Mandy Cohen to threaten legal action against Union County Public Schools over contact tracing and quarantine guidance.