Washington – The nation’s top public health agency released a roadmap to reopen America’s schools amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC, for its acronym in English) made the long-awaited announcement, but stressed that they cannot force schools to resume face-to-face classes.
The guides were presented at a time when President Joe Biden is pressured by various quarters to fulfill his promise to reopen most schools and resume face-to-face classes before completing his first 100 days in office. White House staff indicated this week that the national strategy for the reopening would be led by information and scientific data.RELATED
Agency officials were careful with their words, emphasizing that they are not requesting a mandate to reopen all schools. Officials added that there is strong evidence that face-to-face classes can be safely held, especially in the early grades, and that their guidelines are focused on schools that offer classes from kindergarten through grade 12 of high school.
“We know that most clusters in the school setting have occurred when there are gaps in the use of masks,” said Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the CDC, in a call with reporters.
Although the guide says vaccinating teachers should not be seen as a condition for reopening, Walensky said it can provide “an additional layer of protection.”
The agency also emphasized that mechanisms such as hand washing, surface disinfection protocols, diagnostic tests, and contact tracing systems to detect infections and separate said students from those who are not infected are effective in resuming face-to-face classes.
Meanwhile, he pointed out that the safest way to open schools is by making sure that there are as few infections as possible in a community. They stressed that face-to-face classes have not been identified as vectors of contagion in communities that have schools, and that the transmission of the coronavirus between students is now considered a relatively rare occurrence.
The agency also released a color-coded table, from blue to red, to assess positivity rates in a community, including new case rates per 100,000 residents and the percentage of positive cases.
Here are some other recommendations from the CDC:
– School nurses, teachers, employees, parents, student center leaders, and other stakeholders in the school community should be involved in the development of Emergency Operations Plans (EOPs).
– It is recommended to develop a protocol to monitor COVID-19 data locally in your community to track the level of transmission.
– Create and test information sharing systems, such as school email or text message protocols for parents and regular virtual parent / teacher meetings with the school.
– With the advice of local officials, establish clear criteria to determine when the school will suspend face-to-face classes to stop or slow the spread of COVID-19, as well as clear criteria to determine when to resume face-to-face learning.
– Develop policies that encourage sick employees and students to stay home without fear of retaliation, and ensure that employees, students, and student families are aware of these policies.
– If possible, consider not evaluating schools based on absenteeism and offer virtual learning and telework options.
– Teach and reinforce hand washing with soap and water for at least 20 seconds and increase monitoring to ensure compliance by students and staff.
– If soap and water are not available, a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol should be used (for staff and older children who can safely use it).
– Teach and enforce the correct and consistent use of masks. Wearing face masks is one of many important mitigation strategies to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.
– Offer facial protection alternatives for deaf or hard of hearing students.
– Ensure that there are accessible sinks and sufficient supplies for people to wash their hands and cover themselves when coughing and sneezing.
– Consider improving or updating the ventilation system and taking other measures to increase the circulation of clean air and reduce possible pollutants in the school.
– Parents and caregivers should be urged to monitor their children for signs of infectious disease, including COVID-19, every day.
– Students with symptoms of any infectious disease or symptoms consistent with those of COVID-19 should not attend school.
– Develop policies for returning to school after having recovered from COVID-19.