As the summer continues to fly by and back to school approaches, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention has updated its guidance for schools and other programs. Whether you’re sending your children off to school or you’re an educator yourself, this information will be valuable in your preparation for this new stage of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

With growing concerns over the Delta variant of COVID-19 and the increase in cases since mid-June, we broke down the new CDC guidelines in order to help you proceed safely this school year. Here are our key takeaways from the CDC’s new information.

In regards to vaccination

  • Children under the age of 12 are not eligible for vaccination at this time. If your child is older than 12, the CDC recommends you get them vaccinated. Coverage is only 30% in ages 12-15 and 41% for 16-17—we need these figures to increase to keep schools open. Vaccination is the leading public health strategy to reduce cases and hospitalizations, and ultimately end the pandemic. High vaccination rates among those eligible will allow schools to return to in-person learning safely.
  • Promoting vaccination, through schools, programs, or at home can only help stop the spread of COVID-19.
  • Fully vaccinated individuals can refrain from quarantine due to close contact if you’re asymptomatic.

For schools

  • First and foremost, in-person learning and instruction is a major priority. CDC guidelines are designed to keep schools open safely.
  • As of August 5, the CDC recommends universal indoor masking for all students, teachers, staff, and visitors in K-12 schools (vaccinated or unvaccinated). Consistent and correct mask use helps reduce the spread of the virus.
  • Maintaining at least 3 feet of physical distance between students when possible is still recommended.
  • Continue to promote and teach handwashing and respiratory etiquette. Remember, 20 seconds with warm, soapy water. 
  • All unvaccinated adult teachers and staff should be in a screening test protocol with tests at least once per week.
  • Quarantine and/or isolation may be necessary for those unvaccinated individuals who are exposed to COVID-19.


For parents

  • Pay attention to you and your children's’ symptoms, if they arise. Performing informal daily “screening” and taking temperatures can help catch an infection.
  • Your child should stay home if they are sick. Take any sign of infectious illness seriously. Have them stay home and find a test nearby.
  • Encouraging strong hygiene habits starts at home. Demonstrating proper hand washing, and mask use in public places is by no means limited to the classroom.


What about outdoor activities and extracurriculars?

  • In uncrowded spaces, children do not need to wear masks outdoors. Monitoring activities and group sizes for outdoor activities can allow
  • For sports and other activities consider the following: setting (indoor or outdoor), number of participants and physical closeness, intensity of activity (more intense means higher risk of infection), duration, and presence of others.


Reminders

  • CDC guidance is meant to supplement any state or local safety rules and regulations, not replace them. Different areas will continue to have based on case levels and positivity rates. Stay plugged in to your local and state guidance too.
  • As the virus and variants evolve, so too will the health and safety guidelines from the CDC. Over the last year and a half, we have seen just how quickly everything can change, and this school year will be a further testament to the ever-changing nature of the pandemic.

Action Items

  • Vaccinate all children over the age of 12. It takes several weeks to be fully vaccinated, so start as soon as possible to ensure safety.
  • Keep your eye on case numbers in your area. Check your state or county dashboard frequently.
  • Buy a handful of rapid tests just in case. If you or anyone in your home shows symptoms, it’s always best to be prepared with a test. More drug stores now sell them over the counter.
  • Make sure you have clean N95 or KN95 masks that fit snugly. These remain the best types of face coverings.
  • Stick to outdoor sports and limit indoor activities like team sleepovers or meals for now.

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