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A custodial worker operates an electrostatic machine to clean a classroom at an elementary school in Leander, Texas. Photo: Sergio Flores/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Texas schools are not required to conduct COVID-19 contact tracing in the event that an individual tests positive, according to new guidance from the Texas Education Agency.

State of play: Schools are required to report positive cases to their local health departments, but the TEA said contract tracing is not required because data suggested that transmission rates in classrooms and between children are low.

  • While the TEA does not specifically say that schools are required to inform parents that their student has been in close contact, the agency says that school systems "should" notify parents.
  • Parents can decide whether they want to keep their students at home during the recommended period if they have been in close contact with someone who has the virus.

Details: Schools cannot require students or staff to wear masks, the TEA said, citing an executive order. However, they must allow people to wear masks if they choose to do so.

  • Schools are allowed to conduct "recurring" testing with rapid tests provided by the state. Parents must give their written permission for students to get tested.
  • Schools "must" exclude students from attending if they have tested positive.

For students who test positive, schools can offer remote learning for up to 20 days. They must apply for waivers if more time is necessary.

  • Long-term remote learning has been defunded in the state since it was offered at the beginning of the pandemic, the Texas Tribune reports.

Reactions: "We’re going to find that the transmission rate in schools is going to be much higher with the Delta variant and it’s absolutely imperative that people get back to masking," Marc Mazade, medical director of infection prevention at Cook Children’s in Fort Worth, Texas, told the Texas Tribune.

  • "Our concern right now is that we’re being given guidelines based on old conditions, but we’re not adjusting for what the current conditions are," Seth Kaplan, president of the Texas Pediatric Society and a Frisco-based pediatrician, told the Tribune.
  • "We no longer have universal masking, and we have a much more contagious variant of virus. … Not doing contact tracing is based on the old rules of the game," Kaplan added.

By the numbers: Texas has reported a total of 2,706,267 confirmed cases, with 8,833 new cases reported on Friday, according to state government data.

  • Cases in the state have been increasing since around early July.

Go deeper

23 hours ago - Health

Pediatric groups declare youth mental health crisis a national emergency

Kids attending school in Los Angeles, California. Photo: ROBYN BECK/AFP via Getty Images

Three major pediatric health groups declared on Tuesday a national state of emergency in children's mental health.

The big picture: Rates of childhood mental health issues and suicide had been rising since 2010 but worsened significantly in the last year amid the COVID-19 pandemic and ongoing social unrest around racial justice.

DeSantis to convene state legislature to fight COVID vaccine mandates

Photo: Paul Hennessy/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis announced Thursday that he will convene a special session of the state legislature to combat coronavirus vaccine mandates enacted by businesses and "provide protections for employees."

Why it matters: This is the Republican governor's latest move to penalize local entities that implement mask or vaccine mandates to contain the spread of the virus.

Hawaii invites fully vaccinated travelers to return from Nov. 1

Hawaii Gov. David Ige. Photo: Darryl Oumi/Getty Images

Hawaii Gov. David Ige (D) announced plans Wednesday to soon welcome back nonresidents to the island state who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 for nonessential travel.

Why it matters: Hawaii's tourist-dependent labor market suffered one of the worst blows in the U.S. last year and the state's climb out of its pandemic-sized hole is moving slowly, Axios' Courtenay Brown notes.

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