The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released its new recommendations last week for getting students back into classrooms for in-person learning.
Here is a breakdown of the CDC’s latest recommendations:
While the new CDC guidelines provide a road map for reopening schools, it stops short of mandating all schools resume in-person learning.
The report does say, however, that in-person schooling can resume safely — especially at lower grade levels — as long as districts strictly adhere to certain mitigation strategies, including the “universal and correct use of masks,” physical distancing of at least 6 feet, proper hand-washing and “respiratory etiquette,” diagnostic testing and proper cleaning of school facilities.
CDC officials suggest layering mitigation strategies such as social distancing and mask-wearing with testing. Testing would help identify individuals with the virus to limit further transmission and outbreaks, the CDC advises.
Guidelines also emphasize that school administrators, in conjunction with local health departments, should monitor community transmission by conducting thorough contact tracing.
It is uncertain how the state will adjust its guidelines based on the new CDC recommendations.
The CDC states in-person learning can operate safely during all but the highest levels of transmission, which it defines in two ways: When a community’s seven-day positivity rate is 10 percent or more, or when there are 100 or more cases per 100,000 people in the community over seven days.
Connecticut’s guidelines appear to hold a more stringent standard. The state Department of Education uses 25 daily cases per 100,000 people over 14 days as the leading indicator for when schools should switch to remote learning, according to department spokesman Peter Yazbak.
The CDC recommended giving all school community members who have an increased risk of severe illness or who live with people at high risk the option of virtual instruction. Schools who strike higher levels of community spread are advised to reduce attendance by implementing hybrid models or moving some students to virtual learning.
School districts are urged to prioritize in-person learning over extracurricular activities, including sports and school events, to minimize the risk of in-school transmission.
The CDC states teacher vaccination should not be a condition for reopening schools, but should be given “high priority” during the early phases of distribution. Teachers and school staff should get vaccinated as soon as supplies are available, however, mitigation measures must be continued even after community members are vaccinated, the CDC advises.
CDC officials encourage school administrators and local health departments to assess the community risk level. Evidence suggests most transmission occurs beyond school walls, which is why the CDC advises assessing overall community transmission weekly to make necessary pivots and future plans.
The CDC guidance is a general set of recommendations that can be used by any school system.