CDC takes a 'sharp departure' in latest guidelines for schools

Stark Elementary School
(Image credit: John Moore/Getty Images)

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has released new COVID-19 guidelines for schools ahead of the fall, saying those teachers and students who have been fully vaccinated don't have to wear masks in classrooms.

The new CDC guidance recommends that schools should still maintain three feet of physical distance between students in classrooms, "combined with indoor mask wearing by people who are not fully vaccinated." It also says, though, that in cases where this isn't possible, schools should still hold classes in person while adhering to other COVID-19 precautions, The Wall Street Journal reports. No vaccines have been authorized in the U.S. for children under 12.

The CDC with the guidelines was calling on schools to fully reopen this fall "even if they cannot take all of the steps the agency recommends to curb the spread of the coronavirus" in what amounted to a "sharp departure" from its prior recommendations, The New York Times wrote. Previously, the Times notes, the CDC called for universal mask use in classrooms through the end of the school year.

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Erin Sauber-Schatz, who helped write the guidance, explained to the Times that while "physical distancing is still a recommended strategy," not having enough space to keep students three feet apart "should not keep children out of the classroom in the fall."

Dr. Richard Besser, former CDC acting director, also told the Times this was a "big moment," and 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."

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Brendan Morrow

Brendan is a staff writer at The Week. A graduate of Hofstra University with a degree in journalism, he also writes about horror films for Bloody Disgusting and has previously contributed to The Cheat Sheet, Heavy, WhatCulture, and more. He lives in New York City surrounded by Star Wars posters.