Just because school opening isn’t causing higher levels of community transmission doesn’t mean that there isn’t individual risk to teachers and staff. If we had wanted schools to safely reopen, we should have worked hard as a society to keep transmission rates down and to invest resources in schools.
~Dr. Leana Wen, an emergency physician and a visiting professor of health policy at George Washington University.
The CDC’s recommendations about school reopenings are better than previous guidelines and teacher union leaders seem to approve. They say they have a road map based on science, but teachers still have concerns. Here’s a description.
What about the Red Zones?
According to the new color-coded zones, the CDC identifies counties by Covid-19 risk, blue, yellow, orange, and red. Each zone is supposed to follow specific mitigation steps, with the red zone being the most concerning.
Dr. Walensky says: If we get to a point where we are beyond the red zone here, really high levels of community spread related to the variants or related to just more transmission, we may need to revisit this again.
Fewer than 100,000 children in the US live in a county considered “low” or “moderate transmission” where the CDC recommends K-12 schools open for full in-person instruction.
Leaving schools open until they get beyond the red zones sounds scary.
How will Covid-19 variants affect children and teachers?
The CDC says variants could cause issues. It still seems like an unknown. School officials and teachers are to rely on the same mitigation strategies as they do for Covid-19.
In the first wave of COVID-19, for reasons that we still don’t know, COVID-19 was more likely to infect adults than children. But in the past two to three months in the U.S., there has been a significant increase in the percentage of children diagnosed with COVID-19.
At this point, it doesn’t seem that the new strains have anything to do with this – but eventually, they could. We’re keeping a close eye on it.
Again, for the most part, the new strains do not appear to lead to more serious illness for the individuals they infect, including young people and children.
How will reopening other venues affect schools?
Looking towards our neighbors, headlines like Canada is ‘playing chicken’ with COVID-19 by reopening while variants are spreading widely raise concerns. How will reopening other venues affect schools?
From Dr. Lynora Saxinger, an infectious diseases physician and an associate professor at the University of Alberta Faculty of medicine in Edmonton:
It’s kind of like we’re playing chicken with COVID, which never struck me as being a great idea.
There’s been enough demonstrated risk from the variants being able to become dominant strains over a period of time in multiple jurisdictions that I would have preferred to hold steady and monitor for a period longer.”
What about double masking?
The CDC and Dr. Fauci recently stated that it’s best to double mask. If they did require it, would children and teachers feel comfortable going long periods with two masks? Are they more in danger with only one mask?
The use of masks.
CDC recognizes there are specific instances when wearing a mask may not be feasible. In these instances, parents, guardians, caregivers, teachers, staff, and school administrators should consider adaptations and alternatives whenever possible.
However, on Face the Nation, Dr. Walensky stated: There’s very limited transmission between students, between students and staff, really, mostly between staff to staff when there are breaches in mask wearing.
There’s still poor ventilation and more.
This country still has the same old school buildings. Even newer facilities may lack good custodial care.
Classrooms still have painted shut windows that will not open, broken sinks, and classrooms with no windows. Schools still have old HVAC systems. Do schools have soap and running water?
Do pediatricians understand how public schools work and the problems found there?
The New York Times reports that 175 unnamed experts, pediatricians mostly focused on public health, say it is safe to open schools. Don’t miss the fine print, where they state that mitigations are important.
Do CDC doctors and pediatricians visit schools and examine the conditions, and how children move about? Do they work with teachers?
It’s difficult to manage active children. For example, how do young children practice socially distancing? This list still applies, although the flu doesn’t seem to be a problem this year.
Vaccinations are a priority for teachers to return to school but not mandatory.
The CDC says giving teachers the vaccine should be a priority, but that access to vaccination should not be considered a condition for reopening schools for in-person instruction. Most teachers would feel more comfortable returning to school when they get the vaccine.
The CDC has improved the recommendations surrounding school reopenings, and for this, they are to be commended, but schools still have problems and there are still questions that need answers.