Local schools unaffected by CDC changes in COVID-19 recommendations

Published 8:00 am Wednesday, August 17, 2022

Just before the end of the week, the nation’s top public health agency relaxed its COVID-19 guidelines, dropping the recommendation that people quarantine if they come into contact with an infected person.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also said people no longer need to stay at least 6 feet away from others.

The changes, coming after more than 2-1/2 years of the pandemic, are driven by a recognition that an estimated 95 percent of Americans age 16 and older have acquired some level of immunity, either from vaccinations or having been infected, CDC officials said.

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“The current conditions of this pandemic are very different from those of the last two years,” said CDC’s Greta Massetti.

Also ending is the recommendation that schools do routine daily testing, though districts can reinstate that in the event of a surge of infections. Masks are still recommended only where community transmission is deemed high, or if a person is considered at high risk of severe illness.

Dr. David Martin, superintendent of the Lincoln County School District, said the changes will not affect practical matters on the county’s campuses. Parents and students should expect the same guidelines that were in place when school dismissed in the spring.

“If you’re sick, stay home 24 hours with no fever. Masks are not required, but you can wear one if you want to,” Martin said.

The Brookhaven School District is also keeping its current practice in place. If a student is ill for any reason with a fever, he or she must be fever-free for 24 hours “without the use of fever reducing medications” before returning to school.

“Mask wearing will be highly recommended (but) optional for all students and staff in all locations,” the 2022-2023 Return to School Plan reads. “Students who are symptomatic will be required to wear a mask until they are picked up by a parent or leave the building. The superintendent may require masks for all students and staff if local health trends dictate the need.”

Superintendent Dr. Rod Henderson said he’s happy with the district’s current policy.

“I like the path that we’re on. We’re staying with what we’ve got — masks highly recommended but optional,” Henderson said. “I think we’re in a pretty good spot.”

The American Federation of Teachers, one of the nation’s largest teachers unions, said it welcomes the CDC’s updated guidance.

“Every educator and every parent starts every school year with great hope, and this year even more so,” President Randi Weingarten said. “After two years of uncertainty and disruption, we need as normal a year as possible so we can focus like a laser on what kids need.”

Others say the CDC is going too far in relaxing its guidelines.

Allowing students to return to school five days after infection, without proof of a negative COVID-19 test, could lead to outbreaks in schools, said Anne Sosin, a public health researcher at Dartmouth College. That could force entire schools to close temporarily if teachers get sick in large numbers, a dilemma that some schools faced last year.

“All of us want a stable school year, but wishful thinking is not the strategy for getting there,” she said. “If we want a return to normal in our schools, we have to invest in the conditions for that, not just drop everything haphazardly like we’re seeing across the country.”

The average numbers of reported COVID-19 cases and deaths have been relatively flat this summer, at around 100,000 cases a day and 300 to 400 deaths.

The agency continues to say that people who test positive should isolate from others for at least five days, regardless of whether they were vaccinated. CDC officials advise that people can end isolation if they are fever-free for 24 hours without the use of medication and they are without symptoms or the symptoms are improving.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.