CDC not revising guidance on reopening schools, Redfield says
CDC Director Robert R. Redfield, MD, said the CDC is not revising guidelines on reopening schools during the COVID-19 pandemic but would provide “different reference documents” for parents, caregivers and schools.
“Our guidelines are our guidelines, but we are going to provide additional reference documents to aid, basically, communities that are trying to reopen K through 12,” Redfield said during an interview Thursday with Good Morning America.
“It’s not a revision of the guidelines,” Redfield added. “It’s just to provide additional information to help schools be able to use the guidance that we put forward.”
Redfield’s comments came a day after Vice President Mike Pence said the CDC would issue more documents “giving even more clarity” on the guidance. Pence spoke after President Donald J. Trump tweeted that he disagreed with the CDC guidelines, calling them “very tough and expensive.”
The guidelines suggest that schools consider numerous ways to protect students and staff upon reopening, such as reinforcing the use of face coverings, conducting daily temperature screenings and symptom checks, keeping students and desks 6 feet apart and staggering arrival times.
“[The CDC] provides guidance. They’re not requirements,” Redfield said. “The purpose of the guidance is to help local jurisdictions open their schools. It’s not a question of opening schools vs. public health. My position is that the public health of the students of this nation is best served by getting these schools reopened.”
Redfield modified that comment to say, “reopened safely.”
“The one thing that I really want to say that would personally sadden me and [the CDC] is if individuals were to use these [guidelines] as a rationale to keep schools closed,” he said.
Deborah L. Birx, MD, a member of the White House’s coronavirus task force, said areas should return to phase one recommendations — the strictest of the government’s reopening guidelines — in areas with rising COVID-19 cases.
“[We are] really asking the American people in those counties and in those states to not only use the face coverings, not go to bars, not go to indoor dining, but really not gather in homes either and decrease those gatherings back down to our phase one recommendation, which was 10 [people] or less,” Birx said during the coronavirus task force’s press conference at the Department of Education on Wednesday.
U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos said all schools “must” reopen for the next academic school year and “must” be fully operational. Citing a meeting held at the White House on the evening of July 7, DeVos said speaking with local leaders, teachers and parents was “insightful and inspiring.”
“Students can and must continue to learn full time,” DeVos said. “I have been really inspired by the innovative teachers, schools and their communities that have kept learning going through these past few months and they are getting ready to do it again, this fall.”
Referencing the AAAP’s guidelines on reopening schools, DeVos said that “keeping schools closed places children and adolescents at considerable risk of morbidity and, in some cases, mortality.”
The AAP told Healio that its guidance “does not straight out say, schools must reopen” but emphasizes that schools must ensure safety if they reopen.
Danielle G. Dooley, MD, a member of AAP’s Council on School Health and a pediatrician at Children’s National Hospital in Washington, D.C., said the AAP guidelines recommend schools start planning to reopen while considering the benefits of in-person education.
“They are pretty clear that a lot is going to depend on the local conditions at the time and that things also may change during the school year,” Dooley told Healio.
The AAP said any school reentry policies should consider the following key principles:
- School policies must be flexible and nimble in responding to new information, and administrators must be willing to refine approaches when specific policies are not working.
- It is critically important to develop strategies that can be revised and adapted depending on the level of viral transmission in the school and throughout the community and done with close communication with state and/or local public health authorities and recognizing the differences between school districts, including urban, suburban and rural districts.
Dooley added that the AAP’s approach to creating the guidelines considered the equity of some families in regard to virtual learning.
“Virtual learning may look very different in different communities that have different access to internet, to electronic devices, things like that,” she said. “I think that's also why we wanted to provide some guidance on how some in-person services could potentially be delivered safely.”