TEA Updates Public Health Planning Guidance

December 11, 2020 • Karen Dooley and April Mabry

TEA Updates Public Health Planning Guidance

The Texas Education Agency (TEA) released updated guidance providing districts with detailed steps for addressing employees who test positive for COVID-19, are experiencing symptoms, or have had close contact with an individual who tests positive.

In the Public Health Planning Guidance, TEA provides criteria for an employee’s return to work for COVID-19 related reasons.

Positive test results

If an employee tests positive for COVID-19 and is experiencing symptoms, the individual must meet the following criteria to return to work:

  • Fever free without medication for at least 24 hours;
  • Improvement in respiratory symptoms; and
  • At least 10 days since symptoms first appeared.

If asymptomatic, any employee testing positive should be excluded from work until 10 calendar days have passed since a positive test result.

If the employee has tested positive and believes the test was a false positive, and wants to return sooner, the individual must:

  • Provide a medical note for return based on an alternative diagnosis, although for privacy, the note does not need to indicate what the alternative diagnosis is; or
  • Obtain two PCR acute infection tests at an approved location at least 24 hours apart that come back negative for COVID-19.

Experiencing symptoms and not tested

If the employee has symptoms that could be COVID-19 and is not evaluated by a medical professional or tested for COVID-19, such individual is assumed to have COVID-19 and may not return to work until the individual has completed the same three-step criteria listed above. To return to work sooner, the individual must:

  • Provide a medical note for return based on an alternative diagnosis, although for privacy, the note does not need to indicate what the alternative diagnosis is; or
  • Obtain a negative acute infection test at an approved location.

Close contact with an individual who tested positive

Each district, in consultation with local health authorities, must decide how long an employee who has close contact with an individual who tested positive will be excluded from the workplace. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and TEA currently recommends a 14-day quarantine period.

On December 2, 2020, CDC released additional options to shorten quarantine periods for exposed individuals experiencing no symptoms. TEA updated the Public Health Planning Guidance on December 10, 2020, to include the following guidelines:

  • After Day 10 following close contact exposure without testing
  • After Day 7 following close contact exposure and after receiving a negative test result administered at least 5 days after exposure

Individuals who return following these shorter stay-at-home windows should regularly monitor themselves for symptoms to ensure they remain symptom-free and take appropriate precautions (e.g., more consistent mask usage and proper hygiene) for the duration of the 14-day incubation period.

The TEA Public Health Planning Guidance now references CDC guidance permitting critical infrastructure—which includes schools—to continue to work in certain limited circumstances. According to CDC, when it is necessary to preserve the function of critical infrastructure workplaces, an employer may consider allowing critical infrastructure workers to continue work following exposure if they do not have symptoms and have not tested positive for COVID-19. CDC has classified school staff as essential critical infrastructure workers. According to the CDC, “[t]his option should be used as a last resort and only in limited circumstances, such as when cessation of operation of a facility may cause serious harm or danger to public health or safety.”

If a district utilizes the critical infrastructure services exception, it should work with local public health authorities to protect the employee’s health. TEA suggests that affected staff continue to monitor symptoms and take appropriate precautions until 14 days after exposure. Schools can consider the use of rapid tests for these individuals (e.g., on Day 3 and/or Day 7 after the close contact exposure). CDC guidance outlines risk mitigation precautions to be implemented prior to and during work shifts on the CDC COVID-19 Critical Infrastructure Sector Response Planning webpage.


The HR Library resources, including forms and letters, have been revised to reflect the TEA and CDC update. It is important to check the copyright date on the downloaded documents to ensure the most up-to-date version is used.

Karen Dooley is a senior HR consultant at TASB HR Services. April Mabry is an assistant director at TASB HR Services. Send either of them an email at hrservices@tasb.org

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Tagged: COVID-19, Leave, TEA, "Texas Education Agency"