The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated its school guidance Friday. The update adds more details to inform administrators’ decisions about opening schools and limit risk, according to CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield.
Redfield said the updated guidance comes out of discussions the CDC has been having with districts about how to best operate during a pandemic.
The updated guidelines encourage schools to work closely with local and public health leaders if there is an infected person on campus. Rather than shut everything down immediately for a long period of time, the guidelines said one option is an initial short-term class suspension and cancelation of events and after school activities, so that public health leaders can get the time they need to determine how widespread the infections are.
When schools are using a pod system, keeping certain students together, administrators may only need to close certain parts of the building where an infected person had been. If local health officials recommend against closing the building, school leaders should thoroughly clean that area.
The decision to suspend school altogether should be made on a case-by-case basis using the most up-to-date information about the pandemic, according to the guidelines, taking into account local case counts and the degree of ongoing transmission in the community.
More details: Schools are encouraged to “regularly” and “transparently” communicate with staff, teachers, students and families, including about mental health support services available at the school, the CDC said. Sharing facts will “counter the spread of misinformation and mitigate fear,” the guidelines said.
Schools should offer remote counseling and ensure the continuity of mental health services. Schools should also encourage students that feel overwhelmed and want to harm themselves or others to call 911 or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.