As polls show an overwhelming majority of both Democrats and Republicans believe schools should reopen, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says the science now backs it up. The nation’s top health department issued new guidelines for schools that strongly favors a return to the classroom this fall.
The updated guidelines notes the “importance of reopening America’s schools this fall,” and includes checklists for parents and caregivers to help them determine whether to send their children back to school to resume in-person learning.
It comes after President Donald Trump criticized the agency’s previous guidance for being too strict as he pushes for schools to be reopened. The president has made opening schools a key priority as he looks to restart the economy.
“It is critically important for our public health to open schools this fall,” CDC Director Dr. Robert R. Redfield said in a statement. “The CDC resources released today will help parents, teachers and administrators make practical, safety-focused decisions as this school year begins.
“School closures have disrupted normal ways of life for children and parents, and they have had negative health consequences on our youth,” he added. “CDC is prepared to work with K-12 schools to safely reopen while protecting the most vulnerable.”
The CDC said that based on the “best available evidence,” the coronavirus poses relatively low risks to school-aged children.
“Children appear to be at lower risk for contracting COVID-19 compared to adults,” the guidelines state. In fact, out of millions of person-to-person transmissions, only a handful have been from children to adult.
Citing its own figures, the agency said that as of July 17, children and adolescents under 18 years old in the United States account for less than 0.1 percent of COVID-19-related deaths. The vast majority of those deaths were of children with serious underlying health issues such as cancer or other immune deficiency issues. Healthy children, it seems, are virtually immune from morbidity as a result of contracting the disease, if they contract it at all.
Further, the CDC said, there are few reports of children being the “primary drivers” of the spread of COVID-19—the disease caused by the virus—in schools, or in the community.
“No studies are conclusive, but the available evidence provides reason to believe that in-person schooling is in the best interest of students, particularly in the context of appropriate mitigation measures similar to those implemented at essential workplaces,” the CDC said.
The updated guidelines emphasize the importance of in-person learning, and the detrimental effects extended school closures can have on children.
“It can lead to severe learning loss, and the need for in-person instruction is particularly important for students with heightened behavioral needs,” the agency said.
It urged school leaders to work with local officials to make decisions about the fall, taking into account the virus’s rate of transmission in the area. It laid out a range of measures depending on the level of spread. If there’s minimal or moderate spread, it recommends social distancing, masks, and increased sanitation.
But in areas with substantive and uncontrolled spread, it says, school closure is an “important consideration.”
“Plans for virtual learning should be in place in the event of a school closure,” the CDC said.
Some of the nation’s largest districts have already rejected the idea of a full reopening. The Los Angeles and San Diego districts plan to keep classes online this fall, while New York City’s schools plan to offer a mix of online and in-person instruction.
“The best available evidence from countries that have opened schools indicates that COVID-19 poses low risk to school-aged children,” the CDC said. “Reopening schools creates opportunity to invest in the education, well-being, and future of one of America’s greatest assets—our children—while taking every precaution to protect students, teachers, staff and all their families.”
–EPTimes, The Washington Times and wire services