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Test-to-Stay Frequently Asked Questions

Updated: 2/1/2022

See K-12 Test-to-Stay Guidance for more details.

Test-to-Stay Overview

1. Q: What is test-to-stay?
A:
Test-to-Stay (TTS) is a program that, when combined with regular COVID-19 mitigation measures (e.g., masking), allows students and staff who are identified as close contacts in certain school settings to continue in-person education, so long as they remain asymptomatic and serially test negative for COVID-19. Individuals that are exempt from quarantine under the latest CDC guidance (e.g., due to vaccination status or a past confirmed COVID case) do not need to participate in TTS to remain in school, as long as they remain asymptomatic.

2. Q: How often do TTS participants need to be tested?
A:
TTS participants should be tested 2 times post-exposure in line with the following schedule:

  • Test 1: Within Days 2 – 4 post-exposure (with the day of exposure being Day 0)
  • Test 2: Within Days 5 – 7 post-exposure
  • Tests 1 and 2 must be administered on non-consecutive days

3. Q: Do individuals participating in test-to-stay need to quarantine for any period?
A:
Individuals participating in test-to-stay are eligible to continue in-person learning so long as they remain asymptomatic, adhere to all mitigation measures (e.g., masking) and test negative on two non-consecutive days: once between days 2-4, and once between days 5-7 post-exposure. Individuals in a TTS program can remain in school while awaiting testing and/or test results. 

4. Q: Do schools have to implement TTS?
A: No, schools do not have to implement TTS. DOH guidance outlines how schools that elect to participate in TTS can safely execute such a program. It does not signify a recommendation or requirement for schools to participate. Schools should assess risk based on COVID-19 spread in their local area and other COVID-19 safety measures in place to inform any decisions on implementing a TTS program. Schools within a county or municipal health department jurisdiction should also work with their local health department on responding to COVID-19 in school settings.

5. Q: Can test-to-stay be used in Pre-K or child care settings?
A: The test-to-stay guidance is designed for the K-12 student and staff population and is not recommended for Pre-K or child care settings. For schools that serve both K-12 and Pre-K populations, it is recommended that TTS be used with K-12 students and staff only. Students and staff in the Pre-K setting are recommended to follow the CDC’s quarantine guidance.

TTS Eligibility 

6. Q: Who is eligible to participate in test-to-stay (TTS)?
A: TTS is designed to enable student and staff close contacts that are at low risk of infection and transmission to continue in-person education. Individuals whose exposure to COVID-19 occurred during periods of masking in school (making their exposures lower risk) are eligible for test-to-stay. Test-to-stay is not designed for students and staff who have experienced a higher-risk exposure. Individuals who were exposed to COVID-19 in non-school settings (e.g., household exposure) and individuals who are not able to fulfill masking requirements in line with the school/school district's policies (e.g., students with mask exemptions) are not eligible for TTS.

7. Q: What should be done if a student or staff member experiences COVID-19 exposure in school during mask breaks, at lunch, while playing sports, or during other high-risk activities which increase exhalation of respiratory fluids?
A: TTS is not designed to accommodate high-risk exposures, as the continued presence of high-risk close contacts in school may increase the likelihood of outbreaks. DOH strongly recommends that students and staff members who were exposed to COVID-19 during higher-risk scenarios (e.g., while unmasked during lunch) not be eligible for TTS. Instead, these individuals should follow the standard CDC-recommended protocol for exposure.

8. Q: It is unclear if the student/staff member was exposed during periods of masking or during a period of lower mask adherence at school – are they eligible for TTS?
A:
It is recommended that participation in TTS be limited to students and staff whose exposures to COVID-19 occurred during periods of masking while at school (which make them lower-risk for infection and transmission). If it is unclear whether the student/staff member was exposed during higher risk settings, the safest strategy would be to exclude these individuals from TTS and instead follow the latest CDC quarantine protocol. DOH acknowledges that determining the TTS eligibility of students or staff that have been exposed to COVID-19 in school may require additional tracking and contact tracing. Individual schools and school districts should assess the applicable risk levels based on COVID-19 spread in their local area, other COVID-19 safety infrastructure on-campus, and other risk-mitigating or increasing factors when applying the eligibility requirements.

9. Q: Are student athletes, performers, and other members of in-person group activities eligible for TTS?
A: Student athletes, performers, and other members of similar group activities may be eligible for test-to-stay as long as their COVID-19 exposure was low-risk (i.e., it took place in school during periods of masking). 

10. Q: What should be done if a student or staff member experiences COVID-19 exposure outside of a school setting (e.g., a sibling in their household contracts COVID-19)?
A: Individuals who were exposed to COVID-19 in non-school settings (e.g., household exposure) are not eligible for TTS and should continue to follow the standard CDC-recommended protocol for exposure.

11. Q: Can TTS be used for both vaccinated and unvaccinated students and staff members?
A: Students and staff who are not required to quarantine under CDC guidance do not need to participate in TTS to continue in-person learning, as long as they remain asymptomatic. Please access the latest CDC guidelines on quarantine recommendations based on vaccination status.

12. Q: A student/staff member who has been identified as a close contact is symptomatic – can they participate in TTS?
A: No, all individuals with symptoms, regardless of vaccination status, should isolate in line with CDC guidelines.

TTS Implementation

13. Q: Can TTS be used to replace regular masking and isolation of positive cases?
A: No. The goal of TTS is to enable student and staff close contacts who are at low-risk of COVID-19 infection and transmission to continue in-person learning. In order to ensure that these individuals are at low-risk of transmission, test-to-stay should be used in conjunction with other mitigation measures (e.g., masking, social distancing, etc.). All individuals who are symptomatic and/or test positive for COVID-19, regardless of vaccination status, must isolate in line with CDC guidelines.

14. Q: When is a student or staff member released from test-to-stay and no longer considered a close contact?
A: Students/staff members will have completed TTS and will no longer be considered a close contact or active in the program:

  • After Day 7, if a test administered between Days 5 – 7 returns a negative result, or 
  • If they are not able to receive a test between Days 5 – 7, they will be released from TTS as soon as a test administered after Day 7 returns a negative result, or after Day 10 assuming no symptoms, whichever comes first

15. Q: Can students who have been identified as close contacts and are being tested as part of the TTS program participate in extracurricular activities?
A: Schools should apply their own discretion when determining if individuals can continue to participate in extracurricular activities and sports while they are actively undergoing testing and/or awaiting results under the TTS program. Schools can also choose to employ additional mitigation protocols for active TTS participants, including but not limited to creating separate lunch areas, requiring additional testing before large in-person events, and encouraging alternative transportation.  

16. Q: What is the recommended policy for students and staff not opted-in to testing?
A: Individuals who are not participating in a TTS program should follow standard DOH and CDC guidance on close contacts.

17. Q: My school does not have a universal masking policy – can we still implement TTS?
A: Yes. However, based on current CDC guidance regarding TTS, DOH recommends schools have a universal masking policy in place to effectively implement TTS. This means that all students, staff, or visitors should wear a face covering when indoors on school grounds.

18. Q: My school is experiencing an outbreak – can we still implement TTS?
A: TTS is not designed to accommodate schools experiencing an outbreak or a rapid rise in cases; test-to-stay should not be used or should be rescinded in these situations to avoid exacerbating the spread of COVID-19. Please refer to current PDE guidance for additional detail on responding to COVID-19 outbreaks in schools.

19. Q: My school is already implementing TTS using non-DOH testing support (e.g., Project ACE-IT) – can I continue doing this?
A: Schools are not required to utilize DOH funded testing support provided via Concentric by Ginkgo in order to have a TTS program. Schools are welcome to implement TTS in line with DOH guidance using alternative testing/funding support. 

20. Q: My school is in the jurisdiction of a county or municipal health department (CMHD), what should I do to implement TTS?
A: Where the local health department has not issued TTS guidance, schools are welcome to leverage both DOH guidance and testing support to implement TTS programs. Schools within a CMHD jurisdiction should work with their local health department when responding to cases of COVID-19 in school settings. 

21. Q: Do students and staff participating in test-to-stay need to quarantine outside of the school setting?
A: Yes. TTS is a program designed to keep students and staff in school and, when possible, participating in extra-curricular activities. Individuals who are actively participating in TTS and who need to quarantine should complete standard quarantine outside of the school setting.