On Friday the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released updated guidelines on school reopenings. The opening statements stress the importance of these decisions being made on a local level, using community transmission information. A companion Operational Strategy for K-12 Schools through Phased Mitigation outlines the essential elements for safe in-person teaching—strategies to reduce transmission using community transmission indicators, and changes to instructional and testing modalities intended to limit SARS-CoV-2 spread. This strategy also addresses the inherent concerns of continued remote education and potential health inequities that this alternative use has created or worsened.
These community indicators serve as a modification to the Dynamic School Decision Making indicators, using new epidemiologic data and simplifying the criteria to create new risk-based thresholds hinging on total new cases per 100,000 people and the percentage of positive tests over the previous week (see the Table below).
Over the past several days, criticism of the CDC's new guideline has come from all sides, despite the fact that it provides far more evidence-based policy than previous statements on the topic from the agency. On one extreme, some feel that any opening of schools before all teachers have been vaccinated is too soon. On the other end of the spectrum, some point to the fact that even in areas of high transmission, schools have not been shown to be drivers of community spread. These observers also note that the standards put forth by the CDC imply that school is unlikely to open for the remainder of the year, which they see as untenable. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.