The Legal Brief: New CDC Guidance for K-12 Schools

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently released its Operational Strategy for K-12 Schools through Phased Mitigation in which it updated its guidance for operation of K-12 Schools during the pandemic. In doing so, the CDC somewhat simplified and revised decision-making guidance and updated indicators and thresholds for community transmission of COVID-19 guidelines. According to the CDC, many K-12 schools that have strictly implemented mitigation strategies have been able to safely open for in-person instruction and remain open. The guidance provides a strategy to support K-12 schools in opening for in-person instruction and remaining open through a package of mitigation components. The essential elements of the strategy include:

1. Consistent implementation of mitigation strategies to reduce transmission of SARS-CoV-2 in schools

2. Indicators of community transmission to reflect currently understood levels of community risk

3. Phased mitigation and learning modes based on levels of community transmission

The guidance additionally recommends public health efforts to inform mitigation and prevention of COVID-19 in schools, which include:

· Testing to identify individuals with SARS-CoV-2 infection to limit transmission and outbreaks

· Vaccination for teachers and school staff, and in communities, as soon as supply allows

Essential Elements of Safe K-12 School In-person Instruction the CDC continues to recommend the following mitigation strategies to reduce transmission of SARS-CoV-2 in schools:

· Universal and correct use of masks

· Physical distancing

· Handwashing and respiratory etiquette

· Cleaning and maintaining healthy facilities

· Contract tracing in combination with isolation and quarantine, in collaboration with the health department

Schools providing in-person instruction should prioritize two mitigation strategies:

1. Universal and correct use of masks should be required, at all levels of community transmission. Require consistent and correct use of face masks, by all students, teachers, and staff to prevent SARS-CoV-2 transmission through respiratory droplets.

2. Physical distancing (at least 6 feet) should be maximized to the greatest extent possible. To ensure physical distancing, schools should establish policies and implement structural interventions to promote physical distance of at least 6 feet between people. Cohorts or pods are recommended to minimize exposure across the school environment.

According to the CDC, all mitigation strategies provide some level of protection, but layered strategies implemented concurrently provide the greatest level of protection. The tools and resources include recommendations to address health equity considerations such as class sizes, internet connectivity, access to public transportation, and other topics.

For more information consult Operational Strategy for K-12 Schools through Phased Mitigation Here or call Sara Leon & Associates, PLLC.