The Centers for Disease Control is telling school districts to reopen schools. On Tuesday, CDC researchers announced that it is safe for children to put distance learning in their rearview mirror and calls for a return to in-person instruction.
When some students went back to school in the fall, the CDC gathered evidence showing that their return to the classroom did little to spread COVID-19. That is provided that they followed CDC guidelines like wearing masks, maintaining social distance, and washing hands frequently.
The CDC studied a group of kids ages 0-18 in Mississippi, and discovered that activities like attending gatherings outside the home, or having visitors inside the home, were likely to cause an increased risk of contracting the coronavirus. But in-person school attendance was not.
On top of following CDC guidelines in schools, researchers say local officials must work to keep infections low in the community. They can do this by imposing limits on bars, indoor dining, and gyms.
According to The New York Times, the CDC found “little evidence that schools have contributed meaningfully to increased community transmission” when the proper safety precautions were taken.
“Accumulating data now suggest a path forward to maintain or return primarily or fully to in-person instructional delivery,” researchers wrote in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
In March 2020, K-12 schools all over the US shut down in response to the pandemic, and kids switched to remote learning for the rest of the school year. The CDC says that was the right move. But they also say learning remotely can have a detrimental effect on kids in a number of ways.
“Closing schools could adversely affect students’ academic progress, mental health, and access to essential services…” researchers wrote. “There were no simple decisions for parents, teachers, administrators, or public officials.”
In addition to Mississippi, researchers collected data from rural Wisconsin. There, they looked at 17 elementary and middle schools where it’s routine for students to wear masks. Over the course of 13 weeks, 191 kids and teachers contracted COVID-19. But only seven of them caught the virus at their school.
President Biden said he wants to reopen most schools within his first 100 days in office.