More CDC Policy Changes
The world has now passed the one-year anniversary of the coronavirus pandemic, in that time countless guidelines and policies have been produced by the Center for Disease Control. School closures and the safety of children chafing under distance learning has been a hot-button conversation throughout the pandemic, filled with uncertainty and policy changes galore. Yet, now the most recent update from the CDC finally contains the long-awaited guide for reopening schools grades K-12.
After nearly a week of tepid updates from the CDC, changed regulations have arrived. It seems that one final nudge was necessary to inspire CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky to follow the wants of the people and change the school opening status.
One of the most outspoken advocates of reopening schools is Susan Collins, Republican Senator from Maine. She spoke out to Walensky, saying "A hospital administrator in Maine said that they’re having children dropped off at the emergency room with behavioral problems… We have got to get the schools reopened and you’ve presented no timeline at all for doing that and the CDC recommendations particularly on physical distancing at least 6 feet are just not in sync with what most public health experts are recommending, so I’d like to know what you’re going to do and when to get our schools reopened." This sentiment is shared by politicians and parents alike in our country over.
Walensky’s response was simply that the CDC was “looking to do it soon” and Collins correctly pointed out that no timeline was given leaving parents across the nation wondering when their children could return. However, as a surprise to all the official opening announcement came just two days after the vague responses with no timeline.
The CDC’s new recommendations offer hope for a better, more normal, plan for the future. Possibly the biggest point in the new plan is that the distance recommended between students has been significantly reduced. Previously set at six feet, the new regulations as of March 19th calls for only three feet between students. The prior recommendation for physical barriers between students has also been lifted. Yet the call for proper ventilation was thrust back into the spotlight. The CDC suggests efficient ventilation would help keep schools clean and students healthy.
The Center for Disease Control went on to address the community in their statement on Friday. A guide for how to respond to cluster outbreaks was added, and the importance of the local community was highlighted as a means of prevention. CDC experts included the reasoning behind these changes as part of their guideline update, saying that higher accessibility to vaccines means added protection, as well as still encouraging the use of masks full time.
Also encourages that strict policies already in place in schools should continue to help prevent any further spread of the disease among children. One study in a Massachusetts school district revealed nearly 100% mask-wearing, as well as no change in transmission rates when physical distancing was reduced from six to three feet.
The release offered a statement that may cause those in favor of opening schools to breathe a sigh of relief. "Given the crucial services schools offer and the benefits of in-person learning, it is critical for K-12 schools to open and remain open for in-person instruction, as safely and as soon as possible," it said. "Schools should be the last settings to close because of COVID-19 and the first to reopen when they can do so safely."