CDC urges security measures for safe reopening of schools

Ten months after the start of the novel coronavirus pandemic and some schools across the country still have not resumed in-person learning, although classrooms and buildings in the district are not contributing to outbreaks. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said Tuesday it was time for schools to reopen.

An article published by the CDC on the Jama Network writes that research indicates minimal spread of the virus is present in schools, as long as proper safety procedures are in place.

School closures that began nationwide last March were initially only expected to last two weeks, possibly a month in some areas. But researchers Margaret Honein, Ph.D., Lisa Barrios, DRPH and Dr John Brooks write that as of last fall, a quarter of the 13,597 districts that provided plans to reopen schools remained fully online.

Another 51 percent were using a blended education model, where students attend in-person classes a few days a week and stay home for online learning the remaining days. Meanwhile, only 17% were fully open to in-person instruction, although some districts included options for parents to opt out.

The document states that while positive COVID-19 cases continued to increase throughout 2020, rapid and widespread transmission of SARS-CoV-2 was prevalent in long-term care facilities, correctional facilities and high density occupational settings, such as meat and poultry processing plants. . As schools began to plan for the fall, many state departments of education released advice on returning to learning. However, the uncertainty of the risk of transmission of the virus in schools and on board the school bus was very present. The researchers did not specifically refer to school transportation in the article.

The document relays that, as many schools have reopened for in-person instruction, there has been little reported evidence that schools are contributing to the increased community spread of COVID-19. “A case-control study of exposures in children aged zero to 18 with and without SARS-CoV-2 infection in Mississippi found that attending rallies and social activities in outside the home as well as having had visitors to the home was associated with an increased risk of infection; however, in-person school attendance in the 14 days prior to diagnosis was not, ”the study said.

The research appears to contradict comments made by President Joe Biden during the presidential debates in October. Like Education week reported, he mocked former President Donald Trump’s claims that schools were not super-spreader sites. But then-candidate Biden said schools needed more resources. Since taking over the Oval Office, he has offered to double the federal relief funds available for the reopening of public schools. Discussions on the US bailout have started in Congress.

Meanwhile, the CDC article describes several other examples where face-to-face learning has not helped the community spread. For example, schools in North Carolina and Wisconsin have reported minimal cases in schools. The European Center for Disease Prevention and Control also reported a similar finding.

While a study reported large epidemics in schools in Israel, the spread was attributed to overcrowded classrooms with no social distancing in place, face mask exemptions, and continuous air conditioning that recycled indoor air into rooms. closed rooms during a heat wave. A South Korean study determined last summer that a super-spray event occurred when an infected guest sat under an air conditioning vent in an indoor restaurant.

Research has indicated that to reopen schools safely, preventing transmission in schools and in the community is paramount. It recommends closing all restaurants inside restaurants as well as continuing with mitigation measures in schools, including universal use of face masks, increased physical distance, and hybrid attendance patterns if necessary to limit the total number of students and avoid overcrowding.

It also recommends increasing ventilation in classrooms and expanding testing to identify and isolate asymptomatic infected people. Staff and students should also have the opportunity to continue their training online, especially those at increased risk of serious illness or death if infected with SARS-CoV-2.

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Although the classroom setting itself does not indicate a high spread of COVID-19, certain school-related activities have increased the risk, the researchers report. Close contact during high school sports team practices and competitions and large school gatherings associated with team sports increase risk. The researchers said that 51 percent of the districts had students participating in school athletic programs.

In conclusion, the CDC says that decisions made today can help keep schools running safely and provide essential services to children and youth in the United States, although some of those decisions can be difficult. The document recommends restricting indoor meals in restaurants and postponing school-related activities that may increase the risk of transmission at school, including playing indoor sports and / or competing.

With the distribution of two vaccines under emergency use permits and more vaccine options planned, “there is a lot of hope on the horizon for a safer environment for schools and related activities. school during the 2021-2021 school year, ”the research paper states.

Meanwhile, Biden also signed an executive order on Jan.21, “Supporting the reopening and continued operation of schools and early childhood education providers.” As previously reported by STN, the order directs the United States Department of Education and Health and Human Services to collaboratively provide advice on the reopening and safe operation of schools, as well as on the development of a clearinghouse of good practices for safer schools and campuses.

The National Association for Student Transportation reminded industry professionals by email on Tuesday that the order does not indicate a requirement to open schools within the next 100 days. Although Biden’s goal is to open all schools within 100 days, he doesn’t have the power to mandate him.

“There will be federal actions to encourage schools to open where appropriate, but ultimately your state and local authorities, especially your school board and local administrators, will make the many decisions about when and how to open. ‘open your schools,’ NAPT said.

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Susan W. Lloyd