CDC Suggests Partial School Closings as Option in Virus Guidance

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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated its guidance for reopening schools on Friday to include advice on what to do with students who come down with Covid-19, filling a gap that left administrators on their own to determine the best approach.

The guidelines are largely common-sense, though noteworthy after a week in which several large colleges have reversed plans for in-person learning and after several school districts sent students home after outbreaks.

Sick children should be isolated, areas where they’ve been disinfected, and health officials and close contacts should be notified, the CDC said. Maintaining a goal of keeping schools open, the CDC laid out a possible hybrid strategy that could include temporary building closures or halting certain activities like sports or assemblies “to allow time for local health officials to gain a better understanding of the Covid-19 situation and help the school determine appropriate next steps.”

CDC Director Robert Redfield said on a call with reporters Friday that it’s important for schools to “have a well-thought out step-by-step approach” and emphasized, as President Donald Trump has, that students should get back to in-person learning as soon as possible.

When making any decisions about closing buildings or suspending activities, local health officials should take into account the number of Covid-19 cases in the area, not just in the school, the CDC said.

Redfield highlighted a CDC study also released Friday that showed low secondary transmission of Covid-19 in child-care facilities in Rhode Island. Of 666 facilities that were open the last two weeks in July, state officials identified four where someone at the center passed the virus on to someone else there. The study attributed the low spread to a limit on class sizes and mask-wearing by adults at the facilities.

However, since many children don’t present symptoms, the study concedes some cases were likely undetected. It also notes the virus had a significant impact on the facilities, which had the capacity to care for almost 19,000 children. During those two weeks, 101 possible Covid-19 cases were identified, leading to the quarantine of 687 children and 166 staff.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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