The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has released new guidelines on education and childcare during the coronavirus pandemic over the next few months.
The new guidelines are strong in their recommendations to reopen schools in the coming months, claiming that children do not suffer as much from coronavirus, do not spread it as readily as adults and the lack of school takes a strong toll on their education, mental and physical health.
However, the CDC also recommended that local government officials should be ready to close schools once again if there are substantial, uncontrolled surges in cases in the school’s local area.
President Donald Trump was less than happy with the previous CDC guidelines and demanded that they be changed after the organization recommended masks be worn and social distancing measures adhered to.
“It is critically important for our public health to open schools this fall,” CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield said in a statement announcing the updates.
“School closures have disrupted normal ways of life for children and parents, and they have had negative health consequences on our youth. CDC is prepared to work with K-12 schools to safely reopen while protecting the most vulnerable.”
The guidelines were posted online and begin with an unsigned statement highlighting “the importance of reopening America’s schools this fall.”
“The best available evidence indicates that COVID-19 poses relatively low risks to school-aged children,” the statement reads.
“Children appear to be at lower risk for contracting COVID-19 compared to adults. To put this in perspective, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), as of July 17, 2020, the United States reported that children and adolescents under 18 years old account for under 7 percent of COVID-19 cases and less than 0.1 percent of COVID-19-related deaths,” the statement adds.
“Scientific studies suggest that COVID-19 transmission among children in schools may be low. International studies that have assessed how readily COVID-19 spreads in schools also reveal low rates of transmission when community transmission is low.”
The guidelines also highlight how children have not been the main driving force behind transmission and in fact, spread the disease a lot less frequently than adults.
“This is consistent with data from both virus and antibody testing, suggesting that children are not the primary drivers of COVID-19 spread in schools or in the community,” the statement says.
“No studies are conclusive, but the available evidence provides reason to believe that in-person schooling is in the best interest of students, particularly in the context of appropriate mitigation measures similar to those implemented at essential workplaces.”
As well as downplaying the potential risks to children and local communities, the CDC were keen to highlight the negatives of keeping children out of school, especially for the prolonged periods that have already been the case.
“It can lead to severe learning loss, and the need for in-person instruction is particularly important for students with heightened behavioral needs,” the guidelines continue.
It has also been noted by the CDC that children receive an array of services at school that they may not necessarily have access to when having to stay at home. Students often get food, medical support, mental health care and a wide variety of other services at school, while the impact of a lack of socialization and activity may have a profound effect on a number of children.
The guidance has also taken into account the potential risk of transmission in schools and from schools and the results it may have. Medical experts across the country have claimed that it will not be safe enough to risk opening schools while coronavirus is still prevalent in a community. The guidelines say they have taken note of these arguments and are preparing to reduce risk and worry as much as possible.
“If there is substantial, uncontrolled transmission, schools should work closely with local health officials to make decisions on whether to maintain school operations,” the guidelines continue. “The health, safety, and wellbeing of students, teachers, staff and their families is the most important consideration in determining whether school closure is a necessary step,” it adds.
“Communities can support schools staying open by implementing strategies that decrease a community’s level of transmission. However, if community transmission levels cannot be decreased, school closure is an important consideration. Plans for virtual learning should be in place in the event of a school closure.”
“There is mixed evidence about whether returning to school results in increased transmission or outbreaks,” the guidelines said.
“It is important to consider community transmission risk as schools reopen. Evidence from schools internationally suggests that school re-openings are safe in communities with low SARS-CoV-2 transmission rates.”
“We cannot indefinitely stop 50 million children from going to school,” Trump said. “Reopening our schools is also critical to ensuring parents can go to work and provide for their families.”