The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Friday updated its Covid-19 schools guidance to emphasize in-person schooling is a priority in the fall, regardless of whether all mitigation measures can be implemented.
However, it remains important to layer safety strategies such as masking and physical distancing, and most importantly, vaccinations for everyone eligible.
Schools that are ready to transition away from pandemic precautions as community transmission reaches low levels should do so gradually, the agency said in a draft of the guidance obtained by CNN.
“If localities decide to remove prevention strategies in schools based on local conditions, they should remove them one at a time and monitor closely (with adequate testing) for any increases in COVID-19 cases before removing the next prevention strategy,” the guidance says, adding that schools need to be transparent with families, staff and the community as they do so.
The CDC suggests schools take steps to promote Covid-19 vaccination, including…
- Offering vaccines on site
- Providing paid sick leave for employees to get vaccinated
- Excusing absences for students to get vaccinated.
Covid-19 vaccines are currently available for people ages 12 and older in the US.
In line with current CDC guidance, the agency recommends unvaccinated people over the age of 2 wear a mask when indoors, noting that in general, people don’t need to wear masks outdoors. People who are fully vaccinated generally do not need to wear masks.
“Consistent and correct mask use by people who are not fully vaccinated is especially important indoors and in crowded settings, when physical distancing cannot be maintained,” the CDC notes.
The CDC says physical distancing should be practiced in schools where not everyone is vaccinated, but students should not be excluded from in-person learning to maintain physical distancing.
The agency is advising jurisdictions to closely monitor Covid-19 transmission, vaccination coverage, screening testing and outbreaks when making decisions about the prevention strategies needed in their area.
“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 also important layers of prevention to keep schools safe,” the guidance says.
The CDC says the guidance is meant to supplement, not replace, local guidance and policies.