CDC recommends that schools in areas with high rates of COVID-19 transmission not fully open for in-person learning

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The US Centers for Disease Control released guidance Friday on how and when schools can safely reopen, offering a tiered approach linked to community transmission. Only communities with low or moderate transmission, defined as having fewer than 49 new cases of COVID-19 per 100,000 people in the last seven days and a positive test rate of 7.9% in the last seven days, should open their K schools -12 completely in person, according to information released Friday.

In communities experiencing substantial or high transmission, the agency recommends that elementary school students attend school in hybrid mode, where students do a combination of remote learning and in-person instruction. In areas with substantial transmission, middle and high schools could also operate in hybrid mode or with reduced attendance, but in high-transmission areas, the guide recommends that middle and high schools offer only virtual instruction unless they can “strictly implement all mitigation strategies and having few cases. ”Rochelle Walensky, CDC director, described the guidelines as“ much more prescriptive ”when asked in a call with journalists how they differed from earlier information about school reopening. published by the Trump administration. Still, it fell short of insisting that schools take a particular course of action, whether to close or open. “With the launch of this operational strategy, the CDC is not requiring that schools revert to open, ”he said.“ These recommendations simply provide schools with a long-needed roadmap, ”on c How to reopen schools safely for different levels of transmission in communities, he said. White House adds more detail to the specific school reopening goal of its goal of reopening most K-8 schools for in-person learning within the first 100 days of the administration, sparking some controversy. Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, told reporters this week that the goal is for more than 50% of schools to hold classes in classrooms at least one day a week before the 100th day of Biden‘s presidency. . On Thursday, Psaki clarified saying that Biden “will not rest until all schools are open five days a week,” adding that the administration is “leaning toward science” and “letting scientific and medical experts lead.” In addition to tiered recommendations on when it is safe for schools to reopen, the CDC presented what it described as five key mitigation strategies that Walensky suggested schools implement to provide the greatest protection against coronavirus. The agency recommends that schools prioritize the universal and correct use of masks and physical distancing. The guide also suggests that schools implement hand washing and respiratory etiquette, facility cleaning, and contact tracing. Along with these strategies, a screening regimen, increased vaccination and better ventilation will also help keep schools safe, the agency said. The goal of the information released Friday was to provide local school districts with a “one-stop-shop” for scientific recommendations on safe reopening, “rather than asking them to reconstruct a mosaic of guidance by topic,” Walensky said. A review of the scientific literature on transmission of COVID-19 in schools and among children informed the recommendations, he said. Less than 10% of cases in the US have occurred between the ages of 5 to 17, according to the CDC. In-person instruction has not been associated with “substantial” community transmission, the CDC found. “Most of the school outbreaks are the result of failure to wear masks,” Walensky said. Transmission in schools is more likely to occur between staff than between students and staff or between students and students, the CDC’s review of evidence found. “The safest way to open schools is to make sure there are as few diseases as possible in the community,” Walensky said. The guidance released Friday recommends that schools “have priority to reopen and remain open for in-person instruction on business and non-essential activities.” Controversy over schools has developed across the country The question of how quickly schools should reopen in person has developed controversially among stakeholders in districts across the country. Low-income students and students of color who are already more likely to be underserved by the school system and who come from communities disproportionately affected by the pandemic have suffered most acutely during the last year of remote learning. They have had trouble accessing the equipment and bandwidth required to successfully attend online classes. Also, they are more likely to have caregivers who have to report to work in person, so adults are often not available to supervise or assist at Zoom school. But even among the wealthiest families, where households have strong Internet connections and parents are at home to help their children, the challenges of pandemic education have taken their toll. Over the past few months, women have left the workforce in droves, likely driven by the burden of balancing their children’s school with their own work. At the same time, teachers and the unions that represent them are concerned for their safety. They are concerned about working in older buildings with poor ventilation and too little protective equipment and supplies to keep them safe. Biden has urged Congress to provide $ 130 billion to elementary schools that they can use for construction supplies and improvements. Even if those funds materialize, educators are concerned about returning to school in person without being vaccinated. Where educators fall on the priority list for vaccination depends on the state in which they live. “We strongly encourage states to prioritize teachers and other school personnel to get vaccinated,” Walensky said. Still, he added that “schools can be safely reopened before all teachers are vaccinated.” But it’s not just teachers and school staff who care about safety. Amid virulent strains and ever-evolving science, many parents who have the option of sending their children to learn in person are struggling with the decision. About 70% of parents who had a choice between traditional in-person learning or remote instruction sent their children to school in person, according to a survey of 2,000 parents by Jessica Calarco, associate professor of sociology at the University of Indiana. But the results varied based on certain demographics. Black and white families where parents have a bachelor’s degree were roughly as likely to send their children to school. Among those in whom the parents did not have a bachelor’s degree, white students were more likely to attend school in person than black students. Hybrid instruction, or when students are in school in person a few days a week but not full time, is less attractive to families, Calarco found. When given the choice between hybrid instruction and fully remote instruction, 62% chose hybrid instruction. Families of color and families without bachelor’s degrees were less likely to choose that option. Inequity in resources provided to schools serving low-income students and students of color and the treatment they have historically received in public schools can make it difficult for families of these students to trust that they will be safe by attending school in person . That phenomenon was likely only exacerbated by the government‘s handling of a pandemic that hit communities of color particularly hard. “It is not surprising that students from lower socioeconomic levels do not feel as comfortable in their schools even if they are open,” Calarco said.