AB 856: COVID-19 Youth Health Information Act

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AB 856: COVID-19 Youth Health Information Act

October 14, 2021
  • AB 856 is in effect until July 1, 2024
  • The new law addresses the safe return of pupils to physical activity after exhibiting signs or symptoms of, or testing positive for, COVID-19
  • Schools and school districts are encouraged to give pupils and their parents and guardians ready access to the CDE’s information related to the safe return of pupils to exercise and physical activity

On July 23, 2021, Governor Gavin Newsom signed into law AB 856, the “COVID-19 Youth Health Information Act” (Chapter 123, Statutes of 2021). The law requires the California Department of Education (CDE) to post on its website information related to the safe return of pupils to exercise and physical activity after exhibiting signs or symptoms of, or testing positive for, COVID-19 and monitor the best practices and evolving guidelines on the safe return of pupils. The bill also encourages schools and school districts to give pupils and their parents and guardians ready access to this information.

Included in the information posted by the CDE are the current American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) guidelines for both a preparticipation screening evaluation with a licensed health care provider to evaluate health and heart risks associated with COVID-19, as well as “gradual return to play” protocols, according to the severity of the child’s COVID-19 infection. The AAP guidance for children who have tested positive for COVID-19 advises that they undergo a health screening by their physician, particularly for cardiac symptoms, prior to returning to physical activity. The specific guidance varies based on the severity of the child’s case of COVID-19, based on whether the case was asymptomatic/mild, moderate, or severe. The detailed guidance varies from “children or adolescents that have tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 within the prior 6 months should visit their pediatricians for a post-illness visit prior to return to physical activity,” for asymptomatic cases, to “restriction from exercise for a minimum of 3 to 6 months and obtain cardiology clearance prior to resuming training or competition,” for severe cases. Even for mild and moderate cases, the AAP guidance recommends that the child’s primary care physician conduct “the American Heart Association’s 14-element screening evaluation with special emphasis on cardiac symptoms including chest pain, shortness of breath out of proportion for upper respiratory tract infection, new-onset palpitations, or syncope and perform a complete physical examination.”

The law also authorizes the CDE to include other materials, including those developed by the Eric Paredes Save a Life Foundation, the California Interscholastic Federation (CIF), the American Medical Society for Sports Medicine, and the California Athletic Trainers’ Association.

The CDE website established pursuant to this statute can be found at https://www.cde.ca.gov/pd/ca/pe/covidyouthhealthact.asp. Included in the information published by the CDE is a one-page summary of the law from the Eric Paredes Save a Life Foundation.https://epsavealife.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/09/AB856FactSheet.pdf

The law requires the CDE to monitor best practices and evolving guidelines on the safe return of pupils to physical activity after exhibiting signs or symptoms of, or testing positive for, COVID-19, and to update its website in response to new information. It also requires the CDE to encourage schools and school districts to give pupils and their parents and guardians ready access to the information by posting it on their websites, and actively distributing it via postal mail, email, newsletter, meetings, in registration and sports clearance packets, or in person. While the law does not contain a mandate that school districts do anything, it certainly sets the AAP guidelines as a best practice as pupils return to physical education classes as well as interscholastic athletics, club-sponsored sports, cheerleading, practices, and other physical activities.

The law is in effect until July 1, 2024.


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