While the Biden administration has urged schools to reopen full time, the CDC’s latest guidelines would suggest many schools should remain partially or fully closed.
The new guidelines were released on Friday as the CDC and Biden administration hailed the guidelines as a roadmap to reopen schools.
Under the guidelines, the CDC advises schools in “red” areas to hold virtual-only classes for middle and high schools “unless they can strictly implement all mitigation strategies, and have few cases.” Elementary schools should be in hybrid learning or reduced attendance, requiring students to be distanced 6 feet apart. Red areas are counties that have 100 new cases per 100,000 people in the past seven days, or a test positivity rate of 10%.
According to the CDC, the 18 most populous counties in the US are in the “red,” with more than 100 new cases per 100,000 people.
The largest county in the US not in the red, Wayne County, Michigan, has a test positivity rate of 4.45%, with 70 cases per 100,000 residents. Detroit is the county seat of Wayne. Schools in Detroit are slated to reopen Feb. 24. Detroit superintendent Nikolai Vitti said that if cases increase between now and then, the date could be pushed back.
According to CNN data, 89% of schools in the US are in “red” areas.
In addition to guidelines on when to open, the CDC continued to encourage schools to implement mask, social distancing and other guidelines. While the CDC encourages educators who can to get vaccinated, the CDC says that getting teachers fully vaccinated should not be a determining factor in reopening schools.
On Sunday, Dr. Anthony Fauci said he backed the CDC’s guidelines.
“Vaccinating teachers are a part of it but it's not something that you can't open a school unless all the teachers are vaccinated,” Fauci said in an interview on ABC News’ “This Week.” That would be optimal if you can do that but practically speaking when you balance of getting children back to school with the fact that the risks are being mitigated if you follow the recommendations of these new guidelines from the CDC, hopefully that will alleviate concerns on both sides."
The CDC also says that virtual options should remain for teachers and students who are considered high risk.
"We have in the guidance clear language that specifies that teachers that are at higher risk, teachers and students that are higher risk and their families should have options for virtual activities, virtual learning, virtual teaching,” CDC director Rochelle Walensky said on CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday.
The National Educators Association said in a statement late last week that more must be done to protect educators and students than vaccinations.
“We must also recognize that CDC standards still aren’t being met in too many of our schools,” the NEA said in a statement. “Many schools, especially those attended by Black, brown, indigenous, and poor white students, have severely outdated ventilation systems and no testing or tracing programs. State and local leaders cannot pick and choose which guidelines to follow and which students get resources to keep them safe. And too many schools do not have in place the basic protections that the CDC has said are universally required.”