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April 13, 2021 2 min read

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have chalked out a set of guidelines for reopening schools. These guidelines are basically centered around the following 5 strategies.

  1. The universal and current wearing of masks
  2. Physical distancing
  3. Washing hands
  4. Improving ventilation and cleaning facilities
  5. Contact tracing, isolation, and quarantine

Surprisingly, vaccines and testing are not one of these preventive measures. Instead, the CDC considers them to be helpful “additional layers for protection”. The agency’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices does, however, include educators in its group of “frontline essential workers” who must be prioritized for vaccination.

It is important to note that these guidelines have been released amid a national debate about whether to open schools just yet and if so, then how. With the possibility of another Covid-19 spread hanging over their heads, some officials are urging to prioritize the vaccination of school teachers. Regarding this, CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky says,

"I want to be clear, with this operational strategy, CDC is not mandating that schools reopen. These recommendations simply provide schools a long-needed roadmap for how to do so safely under different levels of disease in the community,"

While all the 5 key strategies are crucial to avoiding a Covid-19 spread, the agency has laid special emphasis on the first two.

Wearing Masks & Maintaining Social Distance

The two most important measures are wearing a mask and maintaining social distance, speaking of which, Walensky says,

"These two strategies are incredibly important in areas that have high community spread of Covid-19, which right now is the vast majority of communities in the United States." 

The CDC suggests keeping students in groups or “pods” to restrict more contact and to ensure physical distancing. 

The agency upholds that the risk of viral spread in a school depends on how much spread there already is in a given community. Walenksy says,

I want to underscore that the safest way to open schools is to ensure that there is as little disease as possible in the community. We know that the introduction and subsequent transmission of Covid-19 in schools is connected to and facilitated by the transmission of COVID-19 in the community.”

Health officials, medical experts, as well as the current administration, all understand that reopening schools will be an altogether challenging and gradual process. In fact, Annette Anderson, a professor at the Johns Hopkins School of Education and deputy director for the Center for Safe and Healthy Schools has stated,

"We now know that this is going to be a much more nuanced process, and it will take time," she added. "I think we can be hopeful that if schools adopt these strategies and as they continue to gradually reopen, that by fall, we will see more of our students in the classrooms for face-to-face learning."