Cook County releases COVID-19 guidelines for suburban schools

The Cook County Health Department has released its guidelines for suburban schools as the state continues to battle a surge in COVID-19 cases.

Health officials are encouraging all students and staff to get vaccinated if they’re eligible.

Those who are fully vaccinated do not need to quarantine if they come into contact with someone who has the virus, according to the guidelines.


Officials say masks should continue to be worn if you're not vaccinated and indoors and there should be at least three feet of distancing in classrooms whenever possible.

In-school learning

FILE - A student wears a mask while listening to her teacher. (INA FASSBENDER/AFP via Getty Images)

The full strategy, which follows recommendations by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, includes the following:


All eligible students and staff should be encouraged to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

  • Vaccination remains the leading public health strategy to prevent COVID-19.
  • Fully vaccinated individuals are not required to quarantine if they have been in close contact with someone who has Covid-19 and show no symptoms.
  • Contact CCDPH to request an on-site vaccination clinic for your students and school community.

Mask Use

Masks should be worn by all unvaccinated individuals aged 2 years and older while indoors.

  • When unvaccinated individuals consistently and correctly wear masks, they protect themselves and protect others – especially important as many children at the elementary level are not yet eligible to receive vaccines.
  • Students and staff who are masked and within 3-6 feet of a confirmed case are not considered close contacts in the new CDC guidance. This means that consistent and correct mask use will decrease the number of students needing to quarantine at home in the case of exposure. With masking, fewer students will miss in-person instruction.
  • The expectation is that schools will follow the CDC masking guidance, with all unvaccinated individuals masked consistently and correctly. CCDPH encourages schools to take the stricter approach of following the guidelines issued by the American Academy of Pediatrics requiring all individuals older than age 2 who can medically tolerate face coverings to wear masks, regardless of vaccination status.

Physical Distancing

At least 3 feet of physical distancing should be implemented whenever possible within classrooms.

  • To allow for physical distancing, it is recommended that schools stagger lunchtimes and avoid large gatherings like assemblies or large meetings.

Screening, Testing and Reporting

Schools are encouraged, to implement screening and testing programs to promptly identify and report cases, clusters, and outbreaks.


Improvements and enhancements made to ventilation systems can help reduce the concentration of virus particles indoors to reduce COVID-19 transmission.


Good respiratory and hand hygiene should be practiced by all individuals, including covering coughs and sneezes, frequent handwashing, and hand sanitizer use.

Staying home when sick

All individuals should stay home when they are ill to minimize the chance of spreading COVID-19.

Contact tracing, Isolation, and Quarantine

Schools should continue to work with CCDPH to report cases for contact tracing, and require isolation and quarantine as recommended for exposed or ill individuals.


Proper cleaning and disinfection at least once a day can help to reduce the presence of virus on surfaces.