The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Friday issued guidelines for keeping children in school even if they are unvaccinated or partially vaccinated and have been exposed to someone with COVID-19.

During a virtual briefing by the White House COVID-19 response team, CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said the test-to-stay protocol involves testing twice in a seven-day period anyone who has had close contact with someone infected with COVID-19. She said if exposed children meet certain criteria and continue to test negative, they can stay in school instead of quarantining at home.

Walensky said numerous jurisdictions have been experimenting with test-to-stay strategies. Some were testing every day, some every other day, and some twice a week. From those experiments, she said, the CDC will recommend no less than twice-weekly testing to adequately adhere to test-to-stay protocols.

The CDC also published studies conducted in the United States and internationally that looked at how COVID-19 is spread in schools, which helped form the basis for test-to-stay recommendations.

Walensky reported at least 39 U.S. states have more than 75 confirmed cases involving the omicron variant. She said the delta variant continues to circulate widely and remains the dominant strain in the United States, but omicron is spreading rapidly and is expected to become the dominant strain in the coming weeks.

The CDC director said omicron has been found among those who are vaccinated and boosted, and health officials believe these cases are milder or asymptomatic because of vaccine protection. “What we do know is we have the tools to protect ourselves against COVID-19,” she said.

White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator Jeff Zients said the U.S. is fully prepared to confront the variant, with ample supplies of vaccines and boosters.

“This is not a moment to panic, because we know how to protect people,” Zients said. “And we have the tools to do it.”

Some information for this report came from The Associated Press and Reuters,

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