CDC head says schools suffering from Covid outbreaks are not applying federal advice

CDC director criticizes schools with major Covid outbreaks for failing to follow agency guidelines – and urges teachers and children 12 and older to continue wearing masks

  • dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the CDC, said schools suffering from COVID-19 outbreaks are not following federal guidelines
  • Walensky says there’s no reason at this point for the agency to change its recommendations for personalized learning
  • She says schools are still safe to visit and transmission in schools is still relatively low
  • Guidelines recommend vaccination, masking, distance and increased ventilation in schools
  • COVID-19 cases among minors have grown 50% in the past week to over 180,000, but children account for less than 0.1 percent of Covid-related deaths


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As some schools in the US report COVID-19 outbreaks, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says no updates are needed in federal guidelines.

dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the CDC, blames the many outbreaks that ravaged the early weeks of the 2021-2022 school year on schools that failed to follow the agency’s recommendations.

“I want to strongly appeal to those districts that have not implemented prevention strategies and encourage them to do the right thing to protect the children in their care,” Walensky said at a briefing Friday.

“Our outbreak investigations often involve large-scale quarantines or a large number of cases in schools because schools do not follow our guidelines.”

She is calling on schools to implement “multi-layered” strategies proposed by the CDC regarding masking, distancing and ventilation.

dr.  Rochelle Walensky (pictured), director of the CDC, said schools that have experienced COVID-19 outbreaks have often failed to meet her agency's guidelines

dr. Rochelle Walensky (pictured), director of the CDC, said schools that have experienced COVID-19 outbreaks have often failed to meet her agency’s guidelines

Guidelines the CDC has put in place for schools include masking, increased ventilation, physical distancing, and regular testing.  All staff and eligible students are advised to also be vaccinated.  Pictured: Students from a Hillsborough County high school return for the first day of school.  An outbreak in Hillsborough County that resulted in more than 10,000 people being quarantined was cited by Walensky as one of the non-compliance with CDC guidelines

Guidelines the CDC has put in place for schools include masking, increased ventilation, physical distancing, and regular testing.  All staff and eligible students are advised to also be vaccinated.  Pictured: Students from a Hillsborough County high school return for the first day of school.  An outbreak in Hillsborough County that resulted in more than 10,000 people being quarantined was cited by Walensky as one of the non-compliance with CDC guidelines

Guidelines the CDC has put in place for schools include masking, increased ventilation, physical distancing, and regular testing. All staff and eligible students are advised to also be vaccinated. Pictured: Students from a Hillsborough County high school return for the first day of school. An outbreak in Hillsborough County that resulted in more than 10,000 people being quarantined was cited by Walensky as one of the non-compliance with CDC guidelines

Preventive measures include vaccination for all eligible students and staff, masking, increased ventilation, physical distancing and regular testing.

“Schools should implement these prevention layers at the same time as much as possible,” she says.

“…we know these multi-layered mitigation strategies work, and thanks to the American Rescue Plan, schools have the resources to implement these strategies.”

Walensky noted that vaccination and masking seemed to be the two measures most often not followed.

She cited two specific cases of schools not following guidelines and having outbreaks as a result.

At an unnamed school in Northern California, an infected, symptomatic teacher attended class and read to a student without wearing a mask.

At least 27 infections from students, staff and family were all traced back to the teacher.

At another unnamed Hillsborough County School, near Tampa, Florida, 10,400 students and 340 staff are in quarantine after being contracted or exposed to the virus.

Walensky ushered in Los Angeles County, where guidelines are followed, to prevent cases in schools, as there is less transmission in schools than in the general population in the US, according to CDC data.

“Schools should implement as many of these layers of prevention at once as possible, and this serves to protect our children even when there are unavoidable violations in a single layer,” she said.

The number of cases among children has increased across the country. More than 180,000 were registered last week, an increase of 50 percent from the previous week.

Date released Friday by the CDC finds that 42 percent of teens ages 12 and older have received at least one shot of a Covid vaccine.

Children can potentially spread the virus to adults who come into contact with it.

But they are very unlikely to become seriously ill from the virus themselves, and they account for less than 0.1 percent of all Covid deaths.

Walensky emphasized that schools are safe for children.

“Cases are not being spread in the schools and schools are generally safer places for our children than the communities in terms of COVID spread,” she said.

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