CDC supplements guidance on reopening schools
The CDC issued what it called “new science-based resources and tools” to supplement its guidelines for reopening schools safely during the COVID-19 pandemic.
In a statement, CDC Director Robert R. Redfield, MD, said it was “critically important for our public health to open schools this fall.”
The new materials “will help parents, teachers and administrators make practical, safety-focused decisions as this school year begins,” Redfield said.
CDC guidelines suggest that schools consider ways to protect students and staff, 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 new resources include a decision-making tool the CDC said “is designed to help parents, caregivers, and guardians weigh the risks and benefits of available educational options to help them make decisions about sending their child back to school,” and a checklist to help them prepare for the school year.
“It's important that we reopen these schools with the understanding that COVID is still here,” Redfield said. “[We] gave guidance in terms of how to begin to respond to when a student, for example, develops symptoms or when a student is confirmed to be COVID-positive.”
Those steps, according to a guidance document for school administrators, include developing a proactive plan in case a student or staff member tests positive and working with state and local health departments to conduct tracing in the event of a positive test.
The guidance is important to prevent a “knee-jerk answer” following one case, Redfield said.
“It is important for the schools and how they're going to handle it ahead of time, because when a case is identified in a school ... it can be a very emotional response,” Redfield said.
He reinforced the importance of children having in-person instruction and the educational, mental and physical benefits that children receive from attending school.
“They provide safe, supportive learning environments for students, employ teachers and other staff and enable parents, guardians and caregivers to work,” Redfield said. “Schools also provide critical services and help to mitigate health disparities, such as school meal programs, and social physical, behavioral and mental health services.”
White House officials had a hand in writing some of the guidance, which aligns with the administration’s messaging on reopening schools, according to a report in The Washington Post.
Redfield said that the CDC will continue to update its guidelines — not just in regard to school reopenings.