CDC calls for reopening schools fully, recommends masking

Young student wearing mask in classroom
Young student wearing mask in classroom

Tomwang112 / iStock

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) updated its school reopening guidance today, calling for the full reopening of schools for the upcoming 2021-22 school year.

"Though COVID-19 outbreaks have occurred in school settings, multiple studies have shown that transmission rates within school settings, when multiple prevention strategies are in place, are typically lower than—or similar to—community transmission levels," the CDC said, while emphasizing that in-person instruction is necessary for the mental and social health of children.

With all students ages 12 and up eligible for vaccination, and all adult employees of schools eligible as well, the CDC said only unvaccinated students (over the age of 2) and staff should wear masks.

The recommendation to keep students spaced 3 feet apart stands, but if not possible, spacing should not be used as a reason to limit school reopening. Instead, the CDC urges schools to look at community transmission rates and build in multiple layers of protection for students and staff.

Those layers can include, but are not limited to, masks, physical distancing, screening programs, and monitoring staff and eligible student vaccination rates.

"If school administrators decide to remove any of the prevention strategies for their school based on local conditions, they should remove them one at a time and monitor closely (with adequate testing through the school and/or community) for any increases in COVID-19 cases," the CDC said.

Severe illness in kids rare

Throughout the guidelines, the CDC also reminds schools that they should work to promote vaccine uptake among students and staff, as vaccines are "one of the most critical strategies to help schools safely resume full operations."

Though children can get infected with COVID-19, their illnesses are typically mild. Hospitalization and death among children is rare: In states reporting such data, 0 to 0.03% of all child COVID-19 cases resulted in death, and from 0.1% to 1.9% of all child COVID-19 cases resulted in hospitalization.

According to the latest data from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), children make up 14.2% of total cumulative cases in the United States since the pandemic began. But proportionally, as more adults get vaccinated, pediatric case rates are rising. For the week ending Jul 1, children accounted for 16.8% of reported weekly COVID-19 cases, the AAP said.

Some children, however, do develop MIS-C—or multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children—following infections with COVID-19. This mysterious syndrome, which resembles Kawasaki disease, can even follow mild or asymptomatic cases.

As of Jun 28, the CDC had recorded 4,196 MIS-C cases since the pandemic began, including 37 deaths.

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