The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued yet another set of guidelines to schools on Friday, this time urging schools to reopen fully even if they cannot meet all COVID-19 safety standards, particularly vaccine requirements.
The CDC also, for the first time, “acknowledge[ed] that many students have suffered during long months of virtual learning and that a uniform approach is not useful when virus caseloads and vaccination rates vary so greatly from city to city and state to state,” per The New York Times — a radical departure from the CDC’s previous guidance, which encouraged a community-by-community decision on whether to allow children back into schools full time.
The guidelines also stand in stark contrast to teachers union demands — including a resolution debated at the National Education Association’s annual meeting this week, which called “for mandatory safe and effective COVID-19 vaccinations and testing for all students and staff before returning to face-to-face instruction in the fall, subject to medical exceptions in accordance with existing law,” even though there is no vaccine currently available for children under the age of 12.
Parents have also expressed concerns about mandating the vaccine for students between the ages of 12 and 17.
On Friday, the CDC instructed “schools to fully reopen in the fall, even if they cannot take all of the steps the agency recommends to curb the spread of the coronavirus — a major turn in a public health crisis in which childhood education has emerged as a political flashpoint,” The New York Times noted.
“The agency also called on school districts to use local health data to guide decisions about when to tighten or relax prevention measures like mask-wearing and physical distancing,” the outlet added. “Officials said they were confident this is the correct approach, even with the spread of the highly contagious Delta variant, and the fact that children under 12 are not yet eligible for vaccination.”
“Students benefit from in-person learning, and safely returning to in-person instruction in the fall 2021 is a priority,” the CDC said in its Friday missive, adding, that ‘COVID-19 prevention strategies remain critical to protect people, including students, teachers, and staff, who are not fully vaccinated, especially in areas of moderate-to-high community transmission levels.”
Instead of mandating vaccination, the CDC suggested “implementing layered prevention strategies (e.g., using multiple prevention strategies together consistently) to protect people who are not fully vaccinated, including students, teachers, staff, and other members of their households.”
“Screening testing, ventilation, handwashing, and respiratory etiquette, staying home when sick and getting tested, contact tracing in combination with quarantine and isolation, and cleaning and disinfection are … important layers of prevention to keep schools safe,” the agency said.
The CDC stopped short of suggesting that mask-wearing and other social distancing measures be mandatory, also in contrast to the NEA, which debated making “safety measures such as social distancing, masking, and proper ventilation” “mandatory for all.”