Physicians in favor of reopening schools say CDC improperly cited their study

By | March 9, 2021

Doctors who determined students could immediately return to schools safely said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention improperly cited their findings to delay the return to in-person classes.

“Like in so many states, California and Illinois schools are being hamstrung by the CDC guidance,” the physicians said Tuesday. “The guidance does not take into account the data we have regarding little disease transmission in schools.”

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In their CDC report published in January, the doctors surveyed 17 rural Wisconsin schools to determine the risk of coronavirus transmission when students return to in-person classes. They concluded in the report that the risk to children as well as teachers was low as long as they continued wearing masks in school.

From late August through November, researchers detected 191 positive cases among students and staff in Wisconsin schools. Only seven COVID-19 cases among students were linked to in-school transmission, while no infections among staff were found to have been acquired at school.

“Keeping schools closed or even partially closed, based on what we know now is unwarranted, is harming children, and has become a human rights issue,” the researchers said.

They also argued that students and staff do not need to maintain a 6-foot distance from one another, as the CDC guidance indicates. Maintaining a distance of 3 feet between people is adequate to protect teachers and students from infection, as shown in the Wisconsin study.

“States are getting the message and passing rules allowing for 3-6 feet of spacing in schools using masking,” they said. “Why hasn’t the CDC?”

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The CDC’s guidance for reopening school buildings, published last month, separated schools into four color-coded zones (blue, yellow, orange, and red) based on the level of community transmission in the surrounding county, with blue being the lowest rate of transmission and red being the highest.

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By the agency’s standard, over 90% of the United States is in the most restrictive red zone, disqualifying schools from reopening for in-person classes in some capacity. But schools have already begun reopening for in-person classes at some capacity without experiencing spikes in cases.

“We are observing a significant psychological epidemic in children with depression and anxiety due to the isolation associated with school closure,” the physicians argued. “The best way to overcome fear is to follow the science, and the science shows we can safely open our schools now for full-time (non-hybrid) learning and keep them open.”

Healthcare