CDC is considering classifying schools into color-coded zones to reopen

the Biden Management Guidelines for the reopening of schools is expected to include recommendations for reopening in stages based on community transmission rates, according to a draft internal summary from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Obtained by CBS News on Thursday.

This phased approach to reopening provides recommendations for the types of instruction for K-12 schools, divided into four color-coded “zones”: full presence, hybrid, reduced attendance, and virtual only.

The guide summary obtained by CBS News does not state the community outreach rates that determine who qualifies for which zone.

K-12 schools are in the “Blue” zone if they have little spread in the community, and in the “Yellow” zone, with moderate transmission. The Blue and Yellow Zones are recommended to allow a reopening with full in-person learning, with the greatest possible social distancing. Schools in the “Orange” zone, classified as Substantially Transmission, are recommended to have hybrid learning or reduced attendance, with the required social distancing.

Schools in the “red” zone fall into two categories: those that regularly screen asymptomatic staff and students, and those that do not. Schools in the “red” zone that do not assess must have hybrid learning or reduced attendance with mandatory physical distancing only in elementary schools; middle and high schools should be virtual only. Schools that screen can have hybrid learning or reduced attendance for all elementary, middle and high schools, with the required social distancing, according to the draft summary guidelines.

Several officials told CBS News that these guidelines are still being finalized and could change. Additional details could also be added to the final guide.

For all levels of community transmission, universal use of masks and testing of symptomatic individuals and their close contacts is required.

As CBS News previously reported, the guidelines will also focus on five mitigation strategies: universal masking; social distancing; hand washing and respiratory tag; cleaning and ventilation facilities and contact tracing, isolation and quarantine protocols. These practices are expected to occur regardless of community transmission rates.

If schools implement these mitigation measures, access to vaccines should not be a precondition for reopening schools, the draft guide says., which is in line with recent statements by CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky. However, the draft guide emphasizes that teachers should be prioritized for vaccinations, and that once educators are vaccinated, schools should continue to implement these mitigation practices.

Most states have made some or all teachers eligible for the coronavirus vaccine, according to Education Week.

The draft guide stipulates a social distancing of 6 feet in schools. Some health officials, including a group from Harvard’s TH Chan School of Public Health, had previously argued that 3 feet of social distance could be used for younger students.

The CDC is also expected to affirm that school instruction should take precedence over extracurricular activities and sports, regardless of the degree of assessment measures implemented in schools. Color-coded “zones” will also apply to these extracurricular activities, according to the preliminary guide.

The guidelines are expected to address equity concerns and recommend that funding be directed toward addressing disparities in low-income communities, including implementing costly mitigation measures such as restoring ventilation systems, upgrading of digital learning gaps and prioritization of vaccines and tests.

Accommodations for “high-risk” educators, including those with high-risk family members, could include additional virtual teaching, modifying job requirements, or adopting flexible hours. Continuous virtual learning should be provided as an option for students with medical conditions, the draft guide states.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Thursday that Walensky and her team will present the final guidelines to the public on Friday, an announcement expected in the early afternoon, according to two people familiar with the plan.

So far, the White House and the CDC have declined to comment on the draft guidelines.

The Department of Education is expected “shortly thereafter” to advise on the “practical application” of the CDC guidelines, according to an email from the Department of Education reported by CBS News earlier this week.

The following guide is expected to address how to use funds allocated to schools and state and local governments to make schools safer.

The Biden administration has used the reopening of schools to underscore the importance of spending its $ 1.9 billion. “American Rescue COVID-19 Relief Package “, which includes hundreds of billions of dollars in direct financial assistance to schools, as well as state and local aid funds to pay for additional school safety measures.

Mr. Biden’s current goal is for “most K-8 schools to open safely in 100 days.” Psaki explained Tuesday that his goal is for a simple majority of schools with teachers instructing “at least one day a week” by the 100th day of the Biden administration, which is April 30.

When asked to clarify this goal on Thursday, Psaki said: “We certainly hope to continue to build on that, even at 100 days, and from there … the president’s goal is for all schools to reopen, to remain open, they are open 5 days “. a week, for children to learn, that’s what we focus on. “

But many schools have already reopened before guidance from the CDC and additional federal funding for mitigation measures. Sixty-four percent of elementary and middle school students are already receiving in-person instruction, according to the most recent data from Burbio’s School Opening Tracker, reported by CBS News on Tuesday.

High school students are not currently included in Mr. Biden’s reopening goal.


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