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CDC releases guidelines recommending reopening schools this fall

Health officials argue that COVID-19 health risks are substantially lower for school-aged children

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The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued guidance supporting a reopening of the country’s schools this coming fall semester. 

In guidelines posted Thursday, the CDC said families and policymakers should “consider the full spectrum of benefits and risks of both in-person and virtual learning options.” The agency said studies show that children aren’t as likely to suffer much from COVID-19. Moreover, they are far less likely than adults to spread the virus to others. 

Given current scientific evidence, the agency argues that a reopening of schools would be both safe and beneficial to the country.

"It is critically important for our public health to open schools this fall," said CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield, who previously said he would “absolutely” send his grandchildren back to school.

The CDC also argued that children suffer from being out of school. 

"School closures have disrupted normal ways of life for children and parents, and they have had negative health consequences on our youth,” the agency wrote. “CDC is prepared to work with K-12 schools to safely reopen while protecting the most vulnerable."

Reopening with precautions

The CDC said studies show that if children get COVID-19, “they are far less likely to suffer severe symptoms.” Death rates among youths are “much lower than among adults” and kids appear to transmit the virus at a lower rate than adults, the agency added. 

The CDC added that "there have also been few reports of children being the primary source of COVID-19 transmission among family members.” 

Reopening schools would be in the nation’s best interest, the CDC argued, as it “creates opportunity to invest in the education, well-being and future of one of America's greatest assets -- our children -- while taking every precaution to protect students, teachers, staff and all their families.” 

However, agency officials recommended that local officials should consider closing schools -- or keeping them closed -- if there is “substantial, uncontrolled transmission” of the virus. 

In its updated guidance, the CDC recommended against screening all students for coronavirus symptoms because children experiencing COVID-19 symptoms could have another type of sickness and therefore shouldn’t be in school at all. 

"Parents or caregivers should be strongly encouraged to monitor their children for signs of infectious illness every day," the guidelines read. "Students who are sick should not attend school in-person.”

Schools play a ‘critical role’

The agency concluded that the “best available evidence indicates that COVID-19 poses relatively low risks to school-aged children.” Schools also provide meals to children who might not otherwise get them, as well as social, physical, behavioral, and mental health services.

“School closure disrupts the delivery of these critical services to children and families, and places additional economic and psychological stress on families, which can increase the risk for family conflict and violence,” the CDC said. 

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