New CDC school guidance weighs in on masks, vaccines, ventilation, and more

By Connie Lin

July 09, 2021

Summertime is in full swing but during the COVID-19 era, fall is of chief concern as the virus’s delta variant rises and Americans remember the case surges of last autumn. As we fight on and into this next season, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is reminding us that of all things the pandemic can take, learning shouldn’t be one of them.

For kids, that means getting the best education possible—which is most likely to happen in-person. When K-12 schools reopen this fall, the CDC and federal officials are urging that all students, vaccinated or unvaccinated, be welcomed back into their hallways and classrooms. The agency has released its newest guidance for COVID-19 safety in grade schools, and the report recommends typical precautions including testing, ventilation, social distancing, and contact tracing, but also mentions “the importance of offering in-person learning, regardless of whether all of the prevention strategies can be implemented at the school.”

Here are some key takeaways:

    The CDC recommends that people who are not fully vaccinated wear face masks indoors. However, it suggests that people who are fully vaccinated do not need to wear masks, which is in line with its nationwide guidance.

    Masks are generally not necessary outdoors.

    The CDC also recommends maintaining at least three feet of distance between students within classrooms wherever possible. Schools without enough space to place every student’s desk this far apart should focus on other strategies such as indoor masking.

    COVID-19 screening should be done regularly.

    Students, teachers, and staff should stay home if they show any symptoms of infectious illness.

    Vaccines, it stresses, are the leading public health initiative for a safe return to schools, extracurricular activities, and sports. Currently, children and teens aged 12 and over are eligible.

    As children under 12 years of age are still not eligible for the vaccine, schools should layer other precautions.

    Localities should monitor community outbreaks and make calls on strengthening the level of prevention as needed.

    The guidance, it reminds, is secondary to any federal, state, local, territorial, or tribal health and safety laws, with which schools must comply.

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