The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released new guidance on Friday warning about severe consequences to children if schools do not reopen for in-person class in the fall.
The CDC’s updated guidance now aligns with recommendations made by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), which endorsed school reopenings with limited exceptions last month. The new guidance also resolves what many had said was a conflict between the White House and the CDC on the safety of in-person learning amid the pandemic.
“The best available evidence from countries that have opened schools indicates that COVID-19 poses low risks to school-aged children, at least in areas with low community transmission, and suggests that children are unlikely to be major drivers of the spread of the virus,” the CDC concludes in its guidance. “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.”
President Trump has pushed for schools to open in the U.S. to resume in-person learning as soon as possible, even threatening to strip federal funding from school districts that refuse to open back up in the fall. The president has said that schools would be allowed to remain closed in coronavirus hotspots.
The administration has argued that the risk to students of missing significant time in class far outweighs the risk to students of violating social distancing rules amid the pandemic. Studies suggest that the coronavirus is much less dangerous to children and young adults than common illnesses such as the flu. According to the AAP:
SARS-CoV-2 appears to behave differently in children and adolescents than other common respiratory viruses, such as influenza, on which much of the current guidance regarding school closures is based. Although children and adolescents play a major role in amplifying influenza outbreaks, to date, this does not appear to be the case with SARS-CoV-2. Although many questions remain, the preponderance of evidence indicates that children and adolescents are less likely to be symptomatic and less likely to have severe disease resulting from SARS-CoV-2 infection. In addition, children may be less likely to become infected and to spread infection.
Democrats, teachers unions, and others have pushed back against the administration’s strategy. The Florida Education Association (FEA), the state’s largest teachers union, sued Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis earlier this week over a state Department of Education order for schools to reopen.
“Everyone wants schools to reopen, but we don’t want to begin in-person teaching, face an explosion of cases and sickness, then be forced to return to distance learning,” The FEA argued.
The AAP and CDC guidance says that children not allowed to attend school in the fall face greater risk of abuse, as well as detrimental impacts to their physical and emotional health. The advice also warns of lasting effects to a generation’s education and learning.