The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued new guidance Friday stating that schools can reopen safely so long as certain precautions are in place.
The CDC is recommending a return to in-person instruction outside of cases of very high community transmission rates, according to The Washington Post. The agency also said teachers do not need to be vaccinated in order for schools to reopen, although it recommended they still be placed in a higher priority group in states’ vaccination guidelines.
Schools should use masks and social distancing to safely resume in-person learning as soon as possible, CDC says https://t.co/cYVMWmOGqr
— Bloomberg Politics (@bpolitics) February 12, 2021
The agency said infections will still happen and schools need to be adequately prepared to handle them, but that K-12 schools should be the last entities to close and the first to reopen in efforts to slow community spread going forward. “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,” it said.
Elementary school-aged children seem to be less susceptible to spreading the virus, according to the CDC. While schools are encouraged to open classes with proper mitigation efforts like mask-wearing and social distancing, some extracurriculars like indoor sports may need to remain cancelled.
Other risk-mitigation strategies emphasized by the agency include frequent handwashing and sanitizing of facilities, contact tracing of possible exposures, and quick isolation and quarantine of exposed members of the school community. (RELATED: White House Announces New CDC Mask Guidance, Three New Mass Vaccination Sites In Texas)
The CDC created a colored-tier system for which areas schools can be open in, and to what extent they can be open. Schools located in “blue” and “yellow” zones, which are the lowest levels of community infection, can operate with full in-person classes. Schools in the “orange” zones can move to a reduced attendance model, while schools in the highest-risk “red” zones should shift to fully-hybrid learning, although some in-person classes can still be had with proper precautions in place.
The guidance comes after months of mounting evidence that school reopening can be done in a safe manner. Despite that fact, numerous teachers’ unions have refused to go back to work until after teachers are vaccinated, and some have even demanded that all students be vaccinated before returning to class. CDC researchers recently released a report stating schools could be reopened safely, but the Biden administration at the time emphasized that it was not official guidance.