Jennifer Miller, 608-266-1683
As the 2022-2023 school year begins, the Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) urges parents and guardians to get their children vaccinated against COVID-19. DHS also encourages anyone planning to attend in-person classes at a college or university to stay up to date on their COVID-19 vaccines.
“Our mission as we approach the school year is to ensure that every student and our dedicated educators and staff can stay safe, healthy, and in school,” said DHS Deputy Secretary Deb Standridge. “A critical part of making this possible is ensuring that everyone is vaccinated against COVID-19. Even as new variants emerge, the COVID-19 vaccines continue to do their job of preventing serious illness that can lead to hospitalization and even death. We urge all parents and guardians to help protect our school communities and protect their children against the virus.”
Everyone 6 months and older is eligible to receive vaccination against COVID-19. Nearly 389,000 Wisconsin school-age youth ages 5 to 17 have already received their primary series of a COVID-19 vaccine. However, approximately 75% of Wisconsin 5-to-11-year-olds and about 40% of 12-to-17-year-olds are not fully vaccinated against COVID-19. COVID-19 vaccines remain available to all Wisconsinites at no cost.
“Over the course of the pandemic, many children fell behind on their routine childhood vaccinations. Back-to-school time is an ideal opportunity to get caught up on those vaccines and get the COVID-19 vaccine, too,” said Bureau of Communicable Disease Director Traci DeSalvo. “Cooler fall weather, schools being in session, and the coming winter mean people will spend more time inside and in closer proximity to each other. Vaccination remains the best way to prevent a surge in COVID-19 cases and a disruption in our schools, universities and lives.”
In addition to vaccination, DHS and schools statewide continue to prepare to keep kids safe and healthy during the upcoming school year. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has released updated COVID-19 Operational Guidance for K-12 Schools and Early Care and Education Programs. DHS supports the updated CDC guidance and encourages each school or school district to closely monitor the COVID-19 Community Levels in their county, along with vaccination rates, illness among students, teachers, and staff, outbreaks, and the age of students served by the school, and adjust their policies as necessary.
Parents, guardians, and students are encouraged to take actions to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 this school year by:
- Staying up to date with COVID-19 vaccinations by ensuring all family members have received their recommended vaccine and booster doses.
- Staying prepared by knowing the COVID-19 community levels in your area and how to access testing services. Many schools statewide will once again offer COVID-19 testing services and every U.S. household remains eligible to receive free at-home tests that can be ordered online at covid.gov. Many health insurers will also cover as many as eight free at-home tests per person each month. Check with your health insurer about how to get reimbursed.
- Taking action if exposed to COVID-19 by monitoring for symptoms, wearing a mask around others indoors, and getting tested on day five following exposure.
- Staying home when sick with COVID-19 or any other illness to prevent spreading it to others.
DHS will continue to offer support programs for schools and early childhood education facilities as the school year begins, including access to mobile vaccination clinics, a K-12 COVID-19 testing program, and stockpile of personal protective equipment (PPE) that includes child-size masks. During the 2021-2022 school year, the state’s K-12 COVID-19 Testing Program supported participating schools and districts in administering more than 800,000 tests to students and staff. In addition, DHS provided schools with approximately 1.4 million pieces of PPE, such as gloves and masks.
For information, resources, and data related to COVID-19 in Wisconsin, visit the COVID-19 webpage. You can also follow @DHSWI on Facebook, Twitter, or dhs.wi on Instagram for more information on COVID-19.