The CDC issued the first set of federal guidelines Friday to reopen schools safely for in-person instruction during the pandemic.
- CDC’s Operational Guidelines for K-12 Schools (overview)
- CDC page on schools and childcare (updated Feb. 12)
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in their new guidelines, recommend five key strategies in what the agency calls a “phased mitigation”:
- universal correct mask-wearing
- physical distancing
- washing hands
- cleaning facilities and improving ventilation
- contact tracing, isolation, and quarantine
Noticeably absent from the “key” recommendations is the vaccination of teachers, but the CDC counts this strategy as an additional layer of Covid-19 prevention.
“I want to be clear, with this operational strategy, CDC is not mandating that schools reopen,” CDC Director Dr Rochelle Walensky said in a news briefing on Friday. “These recommendations simply provide schools a long-needed roadmap for how to do so safely under different levels of disease in the community.
“We also know that some schools are already providing in-person instruction and we want them to be able to continue to do this, but we know that some are not following the recommended mitigation strategies we know to work,” she continued. “For these schools, we are not mandating that they close; rather, we are providing these recommendations and highlighting the science behind them to help schools create an environment that is safe for schools, students, teachers, and staff.”
NBC News quoted American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten, who wished the guidelines had been issued from the feds 10 months ago, as 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 roadmap, based on science, that our members can use to fight for a safe reopening.”
She added that the guidelines have “the potential to help school communities around the country stay safe by defining the mitigation and accommodation measures, and other tools educators and kids need, so classrooms can once again be vibrant places of learning and engagement.”
For his part, President Joe Biden welcomed the guidelines with open arms and prayed for Congress to pass a supportive Covid relief package, saying, “Today, an entire generation of young people is on the brink of being set back up to a year or more in their learning. We are already seeing rising mental health concerns due in part to isolation. Educational disparities that have always existed grow wider each day that our schools remain closed and remote learning isn’t the same for every student….
“We have sacrificed so much in the last year. But science tells us that if we support our children, educators, and communities with the resources they need, we can get kids back to school safely in more parts of the country sooner.”