CDC Releases Updated COVID-19 Prevention Guidance for K–12 Schools

Group of kids return to school during the pandemic.

CDC Releases Updated COVID-19 Prevention Guidance for K–12 Schools

Jul 16, 2021

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On July 9, 2021, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (“CDC”) updated its “Guidance for COVID-19 Prevention in K–12 Schools.” The update provides information on several important topics as Districts prepare for the 2021–2022 school year. The Illinois State Board of Education (“ISBE”) and the Illinois Department of Public Health (“IDPH”) adopted the CDC guidance in full.

Throughout the updated guidance, the CDC emphasized the importance of local control relative to COVID-19 mitigation efforts in the community.  The guidance advocates for locally monitoring community transmission, vaccination coverage, screening testing, and outbreaks.  The results of that monitoring can, in turn, be used to inform decisions regarding the implementation of appropriate prevention strategies in the area.

The guidance also highlights the importance of retuning to in-person instruction, even if that requires reducing some mitigation measures.  By way of example, the CDC stated that providing in-person instruction to all students should take priority over maintaining minimum distance requirements.  Therefore, per the CDC, districts can allow less than three feet between students if necessary to allow for full in-person instruction. However, the guidance states that where it is not possible to maintain a physical distance of at least three (3) feet, it is especially important for districts to consider alternative layered prevention strategies (e.g., indoor masking, screening testing, cohorting).

The CDC also used this opportunity to align the school guidance with its general mask protocols.   Specifically, the guidance provides that, “[m]asks should be worn indoors by all individuals ( age 2 and older) who are not fully vaccinated.”  However, the CDC noted that, based upon consideration of certain factors and in consultation with local health departments, districts may adopt different prevention strategies (including mask policies) best suited for their specific, local circumstances. Overall, the CDC’s guidance focuses on the safe return to full, in-person learning.       

For more details and more in depth discussion of the new school guidance, please access our recent webinar here.

Please contact a Robbins Schwartz attorney with any questions regarding the CDC’s update COVID-19 prevention guidance for K–12 schools.