The CDC released new guidance on Friday that pushes all schools in the United States to reopen in the fall, stressing that students and teachers do not have to wear masks if they are fully vaccinated.
In a marked departure from the CDC’s generally cautious approach to schools in most of the coronavirus pandemic, the revised guidance emphasizes the importance of personal learning, regardless of whether schools were able to complete all the steps recommended to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
In May, the agency had recommended the use of masks for students from kindergarten to 1
Vaccines are approved in the United States for people aged 12 and over.
In general, no one needs to wear masks outside, and while participating in most outdoor activities, immersion, and physical exercise, the CDC said, as the risk of transmission is significantly lower.
The debate over the reopening of schools during the pandemic became a political and cultural hotspot as researchers slowly learned more about the risk of viral transmission in schools. Many students, parents and teachers felt that virtual learning was very great, even though several teachers’ associations opposed the reopening efforts.
The CDC acknowledged on Friday that while schools have had COVID-19 outbreaks, several studies have shown that transmission rates in school settings are typically lower or similar to those in society when appropriate prevention strategies – such as masking and physical distance – are in place.
The guide also emphasizes that schools should take a leading role in promoting vaccination among qualified students, teachers, staff and household members, calling it “one of the most critical strategies to help schools resume their full operations.”
The new guidelines come at a time when the highly contagious Delta variant is spreading and children under the age of 12 are not yet eligible for the vaccine in the United States. The agency recommended using multiple prevention strategies consistently for schools serving children under 12 years of age.
The agency reiterated its previous recommendation that there should be at least 3 feet of physical distance in classrooms, but added that if schools could not reopen completely while maintaining that distance, then they could replace it with other preventative steps such as indoor masking.
The CDC guide added that schools may be required to implement universal masking requirements regardless of vaccination status if their student populations are not eligible for vaccination, if there are significant outbreaks in society, if they are unable to monitor their students’ vaccination status or staff, if they have low vaccination rates, or if the school community says they will not participate in personal learning unless masking is required.
On Friday, Education Secretary Miguel Cardona called for the importance of getting children back in classrooms.
“We know that personal learning provides vital opportunities for all students to develop healthy, nurturing relationships with educators and peers, and that students receive significant support in school for their social and emotional well-being, mental health, and academic success,” Cardona said. in a statement to the Associated Press.