C.D.C. Draws Up a Blueprint for Reopening Schools


Ideally, the CDC should also have mentioned high quality masks or double masks, said Dr. Everyone. (The agency posted new advice on wearing masks on Thursday that included using two masks at the same time.)

Other preventive measures that the CDC has recommended for schools include those it previously approved: universal masks for staff and students; physical distancing; Hand washing and hygiene; Cleaning; and contact tracing combined with isolation for those who test positive and quarantine for those exposed to the virus.

The agency noted that schools refer all symptomatic students, teachers, staff and close contacts for diagnostic testing and that schools conduct routine weekly tests for students and staff unless community transmission is low. However, the cost and logistics of comprehensive screening would place a heavy burden on school districts.

The CDC ran easily over physical distance. The agency’s earlier recommendation on distancing was to have students take turns attending schools to reduce the number of students in classrooms and hallways.

Instead, the new guidelines state that schools should perform physical distancing “as much as possible,” but only require it when community transmission of the virus is high. The softer emphasis makes the guidelines for school districts more workable, said Dr. Nuzzo.

“Many communities have followed hybrid approaches or, in some cases, just didn’t open because they couldn’t figure out this problem with the distance,” she said. The guidelines give the impression that a distance of at least two meters between students is ideal, “but the whole effort to get kids back to school doesn’t have to collapse over it,” she added.

However, the six-foot rule has been viewed as orthodoxy by many educators. Becky Pringle, president of the National Education Association, the country’s largest teachers union, said there should be no leeway for physical distancing or other mitigation strategies.



Robert Dunfee