HAP's Latest News

CDC: Schools without Public Health Precautions Risk ‘Large-Scale’ Outbreaks

Following guidance helps schools safely return to in-person learning, the nation’s public health leaders say

August 27, 2021

The White House COVID-19 Response team today urged schools to follow recommended public health guidance to help keep children in the classroom and healthy this fall.

Recent outbreak investigations indicate that schools with a large number of COVID-19 cases generally are not following public health recommendations, particularly when it comes to masking and for everyone to be vaccinated against the virus when eligible, said Dr. Rochelle P. Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

“I want to strongly appeal to those districts who have not implemented prevention strategies and encourage them to do the right thing to protect the children under their care,” Dr. Walensky said during a briefing today.

Here are a few key takeaways from today’s briefing:

  • Overall strategy:  The CDC endorses a multi-layered prevention strategy for schools involving masking, vaccines for eligible individuals, physical distancing, screening, and testing to prevent the spread of the virus
  • Impact of the Delta variant:  Symptomatic and severe cases of COVID-19 remain less common in children, but the increased transmissibility of the Delta variant has led to more pediatric cases and community spread
  • Power of prevention:  Schools can be a safe environment for children during the pandemic, Dr. Walensky said. She listed two studies published in today’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report  showing the impact of following public health strategies in schools
  • Vaccine update:  The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine has been approved for children 12 and older. The review of Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine for children 12 and older is underway

“Schools should implement as many of these prevention layers as possible simultaneously,” Dr. Walensky said. “This serves to protect our children even if there are inevitable breaches in any single protection layer.”

In its weekly report, the American Academy of Pediatrics said there were more than 180,000 child COVID-19 cases reported last week, a four-fold increase during the past month.

More information about the CDC’s public health guidance for schools is available online. On August 4, the CDC updated its school guidance to include:

  • Universal indoor masking for all students, staff, teachers, and visitors to K–12 schools, regardless of vaccination status
  • Fully vaccinated people who have a known exposure to someone with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 to be tested 3–5 days after exposure, regardless of whether they have symptoms

HAP will continue to monitor COVID-19 public health developments and provide updates to members. For more information, contact Robert Shipp III, PhD, BSN, RN, NEA-BC, HAP’s vice president, population health and clinical affairs.