The federal health agency says this step should be taken even if schools cannot follow all recommended steps to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
In the recommendations, the CDC says masks should be worn indoors by anyone over age two – both pupils and staff – who is not fully vaccinated and desks should be placed three feet apart.
But, if social distancing would prevent schools from fully reopening, officials can use other strategies such as regular testing and increased ventilation.
What’s more, the CDC said that school districts should use data from their local health departments to determine when to tighten or loosen public health measures.
‘Students benefit from in-person learning, and safely returning to in-person instruction in the fall 2021 is a priority,’ the agency wrote.
The CDC also encourages schools to promote COVID-19 vaccination by ‘providing information, encouraging vaccine trust and confidence, and establishing supportive policies and practices that make getting vaccinated as easy and convenient as possible.’
The CDC issued new guidance on Friday calling for K-12 schools to fully reopen in fall 2021. Pictured: A kindergarten student at Resurrection Catholic School in Los Angeles, California, February 2021
Recommendations include all unvaccinated children ages two and older wear masks and that desks are placed at least three feet apart (file image)
Children make up 14% of all COVID-19 cases in the U.S. but just 0.1% of all deaths, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics
Despite the fact that the Indian ‘Delta’ variant continues to spread, and that no vaccines are approved for children under age 12, many health officials said the guidance is the right decision.
Although children can contract COVID-19 and pass it on to adults, they are much less likely to fall severely ill and die.
Currently, children under age 18 make up 14 percent of all cases to date and just 0.1 percent of all Covid-related deaths in the U.S., according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Polls suggest that parents are 50/50 about vaccinating children with a recent CDC report suggesting 56 percent of parents 12-to-17-year-olds plan to vaccinate their children.
‘For the first time, I really think they hit it on the nose,’ Dr Benjamin Linas, an infectious disease specialist at Boston University told The New York Times.
‘I think it’s science-based and right on the mark. I don’t want to send my 11-year-old to school without a mask yet, because Delta is out there.
‘And even if she’s not going to get severe Covid from Delta, I’m not ready to take that risk.’
Dr Erin Sauber-Schatz, a Commander in the United States Public Health Service, who helped write the CDC guidance, told The Times the recommendations started being drafted in May after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Pfizer-BioNTech’s coronavirus vaccine for ages 12 and up.
It relies on a multi-layered approach, meaning using several strategies to help combat the spread of COVID-19 in classrooms.
This includes masks, social distancing, symptoms screenings, contact tracing, increasing ventilation, hand-washing and making sure anyone with signs of illness stays home.
‘We know that in-person learning is really important for school, for children, for their educational, social and emotional well-being, and so we really want to get kids back in the classroom,’ Sauber-Schatz told The Times.
‘Physical distancing is still a recommended strategy…[but not having enough space] should not keep children out of the classroom in the fall.’
Heath experts also acknowledge that the guidance help relieve the emotional and economic burden that parents have experienced, many of whom had to remain home to watch their children.
‘This a big moment,’ Dr Richard Besser, former acting director of the CDC told The Times.
‘It’s also a recognition that there are real costs to keeping children at home, to keeping them out of school, that school is so important in terms of children’s socialization and development and it provides other supports as well’ — including to working parents.