The new tools and resources released by the CDC include detailed recommendations on how schools can safely reopen.
In a statement posted Thursday, the CDC says children are less likely to experience a severe form of COVID-19. The statement also drew controversy as some, including the American Federation of Teachers, calling it overtly political.
The CDC pushed for school reopenings due to the setbacks — socially, emotionally, and behaviorally — kids can experience from a prolonged lack of in-person learning.
Additionally, children are thought not to be a primary source of transmission, according to the CDC.
A spokesperson with the CDC told Healthline that the new guidelines lay “out the evidence about kids’ infectivity and the impact of reopening schools in other countries. It also lays out the importance of school for students, with emphasis on mental, social, and emotional health.”
The CDC also plans to update its guidance as health officials learn more about COVID-19.
“COVID-19 is a new disease that we learn more about every day. As CDC learns more we will continue to update our guidance, resource, and tools to ensure that we are providing the best available data and science to help slow and ultimately stop the spread of COVID-19,” the CDC spokesperson said.
Here’s what experts think about the CDC’s stance on reopening schools.
What doctors think about the guidance
COVID-19 has continued to rip through communities, affecting people of all ages.
Take a look at what’s taken place at some summer camps. Even camps that were adhering to safety measures — like physical or social distancing, mask-wearing, and handwashing — had to shut down due to COVID-19 outbreaks.
In Florida, some experts attribute the rising infection rate among children to summer camps.
On the other hand, we haven’t seen major issues with day care centers being open, according to Dr. Amesh Adalja, an infectious disease physician and senior scholar for Johns Hopkins University Center for Health Security.
Health experts say reopening schools is a tricky course to navigate and should be executed carefully on a local level.
There’s no way we can get the risk to zero, so we need to find a way to get kids back to school safely, according to Adalja.
“This is going to be a risk-calculated type of process where we’re weighing the risk of the disease versus the risk of keeping people out of schools, and I think it’s not an easy decision to make,” Adalja said.
Dr. Thomas Murray, a Yale Medicine pediatric infectious disease doctor and associate professor at Yale University School of Medicine, says it’ll take careful planning and preparation.
“While I agree in-person education is preferred and has many advantages, it is not straightforward. The risks of COVID-19 spread must be weighed against the benefits of in-person education,” Murray said.
Do children really have a lower risk?
One of the key points the CDC makes in its new guidance is that children tend to have a lower risk for getting seriously sick from COVID-19.
“What we’ve seen so far, younger children [are] less likely to spread infection,” Adalja said.
Dr. Matthew Heinz, a hospitalist and internist in Tucson, Arizona, says we’re still learning about how children spread the virus, and there’s no consensus.
When groups gather together no matter the age, there’s a higher risk of transmission.
According to Heinz, a recent study found that 10- to 19-year-olds spread the virus just as much as adults.
Even if children spread the virus less readily, some doctors still expect we’ll see new surges tied back to school reopenings.
“Children may not spread the virus as much as adults, but there will still be an increase in new cases once schools reopen in an area, as other countries have observed,” Heinz said.
Adults who work in the schools will have an increased risk for getting sick as will those who have close contact with kids and their teachers, Heinz notes.
The bottom line
The CDC released new resources and tools regarding how schools can safely reopen in the fall.
Health experts say each school will need to look at local transmission, the safety measures they can enforce, and a preventive plan before opening up.
Each family should weigh the risks and benefits and determine what their best option is.
Medical reference: Healthline