Schools across the country have been given the green light by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) to reopen schools safely for in-school classes – even in communities where the COVID-19 virus is prevalent. President Biden has set a goal of having more than 50% of the nation’s schools reopened by the 100th day of his presidency, and the CDC’s new strategy supports that goal.
According to Burbio’s school opening tracker, 41% of elementary and high school students are already back in school receiving in-person instruction, while 25% are doing a hybrid of traditional and virtual, and 34% are receiving virtual instruction only.
Pediatric experts interviewed in the New York Times said that the risks to children not attending in-person classes are much higher than their risk of possibly contracting COVID-19. Those risks include depression, hunger, anxiety, isolation and learning loss.
Dr. Lisa Abuogi, a pediatric ER physician at the University of Chicago, said, “Children’s learning and emotional and, in some cases, physical health is being severely impacted by being out of school… the amount of mental distress we are seeing in children related to schools is off the charts.”
The CDC voiced similar concerns and is paving the way to reopen schools safely. In its 35-page guide, it said, “Evidence suggests that many K-12 schools that have strictly implemented mitigation strategies have been able to safely open for in-person instruction and remain open. K-12 schools should be the last settings to close after all other mitigation measures in the community have been employed, and the first to reopen when they can do so safely.”
While the CDC stressed that it is safest to reopen schools in areas where transmission levels are lower, schools could still reopen in high transmission areas as long as rigorous mitigation guidelines were followed.
Dr. David Rosen, an assistant professor of pediatric infectious diseases at Washington University in St. Louis, said in the Times article, “There is no situation in which schools can’t be open unless they have evidence of in-school transmission.”
Mitigation strategies recommended by the CDC include: universal and correct use of masks, physical distancing (of at least six feet), avoidance of crowds, handwashing, cleaning and sanitizing facilities, proper ventilation, contact tracing and isolating/quarantining when students or teachers present symptoms or have been exposed to someone with the virus.
The CDC strategy also says that teachers should be prioritized for receiving vaccines, but that vaccines would not be required for schools to reopen.
Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers – one of the largest teachers’ unions in the country, issued a statement saying, “Today, the CDC met fear of the pandemic with facts and evidence. For the first time since the start of this pandemic, we have a rigorous road map, based on science, that our members can use to fight for a safe reopening.”
If your school is planning to reopen and is looking for additional ways to mitigate risks – such as health screening kiosks to prevent people with fever from entering your facility or location and proximity solutions to assist with contact tracing, visit our website or contact us today.