Washington State Department of Health (DOH)

Quick, easy to digest summaries of updated DOH COVID-19 guidance.

The Washington State Department of Health (DOH) regularly updates COVID-19 guidance to meet the needs of school communities in this fast-paced, ever-changing environment. Learn to Return provides high-level guidance briefs for L2R districts that are quick and easy to digest. 

May 30, 2023

Summary of guidance updates for K-12 schools, child cares, and partners

The Washington State Department of Health (DOH) updated the Guidance to Prevent and Respond to COVID-19 in K-12 Schools and Child Cares on May 30, 2023. DOH also sunset the Interim SARS-CoV-2 Self-Testing Guidance for K-12 School and Child Care Providers.

The talking points below are intended for schools, child cares, local health jurisdictions, and partners to summarize the changes being made to the guidance documents.

Please note: While the new guidance will be effective immediately upon release, it is not the intention of DOH that K-12 schools change any policies or practices between the release of the updated guidance and the end of the school year. There is no expectation that K-12 schools review and implement any guidance changes prior to the end of the 2022/2023 school year.

What schools, child care, and partners need to know about the Guidance to Prevent and Respond to COVID-19 in K-12 Schools and Child Cares:

  • In the 2023/2024 school year, schools and child cares will no longer be required to report positive results from at-home tests or from tests administered by healthcare providers or labs outside of the school or child care to their local health jurisdictions.
    • Schools will continue to be required to report test results from tests administered by the school, per the COVID-19 Point-of-Care Test Reporting for K-12 Schools.
    • Schools and child cares will continue to be required to report any outbreaks or suspect outbreaks of COVID-19 to their LHJ.
    • Because case reporting requirements for schools and child cares will now align with requirements for other establishments, the Interim SARS-CoV-2 Self-Testing Guidance for K-12 School and Child Care Providers will be sunset. For additional information on self-testing guidance, K-12 schools and child cares should refer to the COVID-19 Self-Testing Guidance for Establishments. Individuals and families should refer to the COVID-19 Self-Testing Guidance.
    • See our Q&As on K-12 guidance for more details on reporting, definitions of outbreaks, and more.
  • The updated guidance includes a new section with considerations for flu, RSV, and other respiratory illnesses.
  • References to the Secretary of Health Mask Order, which ended on April 3, 2023, have been removed. However, anyone working near or providing care to a person known to have COVID-19 or with COVID-19 symptoms should wear appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE). Schools and child cares should refer to L&I Requirements and Guidance for Preventing COVID-19 (wa.gov) for additional details on level of respiratory protection needed for employees.
    • Masking may be necessary and required in response to an increase in cases, high absenteeism due to respiratory illness, or in response to an outbreak.
  • References to the Say Yes! COVID Test program, which ended on May 11, 2023, have been removed.
  • Recommendations referencing the CDC COVID-19 community levels have been removed.
    • Instead of monitoring CDC community levels to implement layered mitigation strategies, K-12 schools and child cares should consider additional strategies during outbreaks or when there is high absenteeism due to respiratory illness.
    • Recommended mitigation strategies are described in detail in the Guidance to Prevent and Respond to COVID-19 in K-12 Schools and Child Cares and can include masking, improving ventilation, and screening testing. If you have any questions, please contact your local health jurisdiction or the COVID-19 information hotline by dialing 1-800-525-0127, then press #.

May 11, 2023

END OF The Public Health Emergency GUIDANCE

When the federal public health emergency expired on May 11, 2023, so did the Washington state standing order that authorized the administration of POC testing by non-medical staff. This means that, moving forward, only registered nurses (RNs), RN-delegated staff, or RN-directed licensed practical nurses (LPNs) are permitted under state law to perform POC tests onsite.

This is an abrupt change to the policy that has governed school testing over the past several years, and schools understandably have a lot of concerns.

During the May 18 Learning Network event, schools sent us questions that cover a range of topics, like: 

  • Nursing scope of practice 
  • Nurse delegation of testing activities
  • MTS licenses (CLIA waivers) 
  • Testing supplies
  • K-12 guidance 
  • DOH communications
  • Transitioning to an OTC-only model

On the Q&A page, we have listed all of your questions by topic and tried to answer each as thoroughly as possible. We hope these responses will help you and your team determine the best path forward for your testing program.

Previous guidance

Please note that this content is available for your reference but is no longer up-to-date. Please refer to the most recent guidance for current implementation and planning.

Guidance for the 2022-2023 school year

DOH has released updated K-12 guidance for the 2022-2023 school year! These requirements and recommendations help reduce the spread of COVID-19, limit outbreaks, and minimize interruptions to school life.

Key takeaways from doh's august 2022 guidance

  • Students or staff who test positive for COVID-19 must stay home and isolate for 5 days. Repeating initial tests does not change this requirement. See What to do if a person is symptomatic for more information. See page 2.
  • Students or staff returning from 5 days of isolation should wear a well-fitted mask from days 6 to 10. Students and staff are also encouraged to test before returning to school. See page 6.
  • If students or staff continue to test positive for COVID-19 after day 5, they must isolate for the full 10 days. See page 6.
  • Schools are no longer required to notify high risk students and staff of exposure but must continue to have a process in place to inform students, staff, and families when there are cases or outbreaks in school. See page 3.
  • The “test to stay” program is no longer a part of the recommendation section; however, testing protocols remain an important tool to ensure safe in-person learning. See page 10. 
  • Schools are required to respond to outbreaks. All suspected outbreaks (3 or more cases within a specified core group) must be reported to your local health jurisdiction. See page 4. 

Check out the DOH guidance brief for schools for more details. 

March 11, 2022

Some requirements have been dropped or modified while others have become recommendations.

January 31, 2022

Important changes to sports screening updates.

December 17, 2021

Sports guidance.

November 8, 2021

Safety for the performing arts, defining a close contact, 7-day quarantine rules.

October 26, 2021

Testing Staff PPE Guidance.

October 4, 2021

New “outbreak” definition and other changes.

September 14, 2021


August 18, 2021

Masks and Testing.