Seattle Public Schools


Respiratory Illness Response

COVID-19 and Other Respiratory Illnesses

SPS continues to follow mitigation strategies to minimize transmission of COVID-19 and other respiratory illnesses.

Respiratory Illness Prevention

Respiratory illnesses like influenza (flu), COVID-19, RSV and many others are spread when a person coughs, sneezes, talks, or laughs. The best way to prevent the spread of infectious respiratory illness is to:

  • Stay home when ill
  • Wash hands often with soap and water
  • Cover coughs and sneezes
  • Avoid close contact with sick individuals
  • Practice healthy habits
  • Get vaccinated for preventable diseases

Check out the Is My Child too Sick to go to School guide for more information.

Symptoms, testing, and isolating

Students and staff experiencing new, changed, or worsening of respiratory or gastrointestinal symptoms should stay home, get tested for COVID-19, and follow the Department of Health symptom flowchart.


  • Fever (≥100.4°F) or chills
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Loss of taste or smell
  • Congestion or runny nose
  • Nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea
  • Headache
  • Fatigue
  • Sore throat
  • Cough

Any student or staff who tests positive for COVID-19 is required to isolate at home for five full days regardless of vaccination status. See the DOH Isolation, Testing, and Masking Calculator for more information.

If you test positive for COVID-19 but do not have symptoms:

  • Isolate for at least five days after testing positive for COVID-19. Day zero is the day you test positive. You can leave isolation after five full days if you have not developed any symptoms. Repeating the test does not change the requirement to isolate for five full days. 

If you develop symptoms after testing positive:

  • Your five-day isolation should start over. Follow the isolation recommendations below for individuals who have symptoms.   

If you test positive for COVID-19 and develop symptoms:

  • Individuals may return from isolation after five full days have passed since symptoms appeared if:
    • No fever within the past 24 hours (without medication) AND
    • Symptoms have significantly improved 

COVID-19 antigen tests are encouraged before returning from isolation. Only start testing if you are fever free for 24 hours without using fever-reducing medication and your other symptoms have improved. 

  • Anyone returning to school or work after isolation should wear a well-fitted mask from day six to 10. These individuals should also remain masked for sports and other extracurricular activities. 
  • If an individual tests positive after five days of isolation, they must stay at home for the full 10-day isolation period unless they test negative on two sequential tests each performed 24-48 hours apart. If they test negative on the two sequential tests, they can end isolation before day 10. 
  • If an individual is unable to wear a well-fitting mask, they should continue to isolate for the full 10 days.  

Individuals who have been infected with COVID-19 within the past 90 days should use an antigen test, as PCR tests may remain persistently positive even if there is no new or active infection. 


Regardless of vaccination status, anyone (especially housemates and family members) potentially exposed to COVID-19 is encouraged to:  

  • Monitor for symptoms and get tested for COVID-19 three to five days after your last exposure. 
  • Wear a high-quality mask or respirator around others at home and in public for 10 days after your last exposure. Continue to wear a mask even if you test negative for COVID-19.

If you test positive:

  • Isolate and follow SPS isolation, masking, and return to school guidance

If you test negative by an antigen test:

  • Retest with an antigen test 24-48 hours after the first negative test. If the second test is negative, but concerns exist for COVID-19, you may retest 24-48 hours after the second negative test, for a total of at least three tests.

Outbreak Response 

If there is a suspected or confirmed outbreak in a classroom or across classrooms, testing and masking may be required to sustain in-person learning.

Home Test Kits

COVID-19 antigen home test kits will be made available for students and staff to test at home.

Mask Guidance

At SPS, we respect the masking choices of individuals in our community. Wearing a well-fitted mask helps protect against the spread of COVID-19. Masks are strongly recommended for individuals recovering from the COVID-19 (days 6-10) and anyone who has been exposed to COVID-19 (days 0-10).

In the event of an outbreak, mask wearing may be required to help reduce the spread of respiratory illness.

Seattle Public Schools lifted its mask requirements in March 2022. SPS continues to encourage masking at school, especially after travel or a break.