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CDC Provides Guidance for a Return to School for In-Person Instruction

CDC director says this is not mandatory, but is a road map and provides strategies for schools to reopen safely.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced today its guidance to reopen schools safely. CDC laid out 5 key mitigation strategies with the strongest emphasis on the first two. The strategies include: required masking, physical distancing, handwashing and respiratory etiquette, cleaning and maintaining healthy facilities, and contact tracing in combination with isolation and quarantine, in collaboration with the health department.

The full guidance can be viewed here.

CDC Director Rochelle Walensky, MD, did not, however, say the reopening of schools is required. “With the release of this strategy is not mandating that schools open,” Walensky said. “This is a road map.”

School Zones
Within the guidance, CDC has developed colored zones (blue, yellow, orange, and red) based on the number of new cases within schools to help enable them to see what types of reopening options they should follow. The blue zone is a low spread (0-9 new cases per 100,000 in the last week). The yellow is for schools with a moderate spread (10-49 new cases per 100,000 in the last week). These 2 zones are encouraged to consider reopening for in-person learning.

The orange zone, which is considered for schools with significant spread (50-99 new cases per 100,000 in the last week), can still consider a limited reopening, as long as the schools can utilize safety strategies in the classroom.

For schools in the red zone, which has the highest community spread, (more than 100 new cases per 100,000 in the last week), elementary schools can consider a limited reopening, but should consider virtual only learning for middle and high schools.

“Success in preventing COVID-19 in schools begins with and is connected to preventing transmission in communities. Schools and communities must implement a layered approach that adheres to multiple mitigation strategies and adjust them as needed to reduce COVID-19 risk for students, teachers, school staff, families, and the community,” the CDC guidance stated. “In areas of low or moderate community transmission, the spread of SARS-CoV-2 infection in schools is low when consistent use of layered mitigation strategies is in place.”