A new C.D.C. statement on schools calls for reopening and downplays the potential health risks.
The top U.S. public health agency issued a full-throated call to reopen schools in a package of new “resources and tools” posted on its website Thursday night that opened with a statement that sounded more like a political speech than a scientific document, listing numerous benefits for children of being in school and downplaying the potential health risks.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published the new guidance two weeks after President Trump criticized its earlier recommendations on school reopenings as “very tough and expensive,” ramping up what had already been an anguished national debate over the question of how soon children should return to classrooms. As the president was criticizing the initial C.D.C. recommendations, a document from the agency surfaced that detailed the risks of reopening and the steps that districts were taking to minimize those risks.
“Reopening schools creates opportunity to invest in the education, well-being, and future of one of America’s greatest assets — our children — while taking every precaution to protect students, teachers, staff and all their families,” the new opening statement said.
The package of materials began with the opening statement, titled “The Importance of Reopening America’s Schools This Fall,” and repeatedly described children as being at low risk for being infected by or transmitting the coronavirus, even though the science on both aspects is far from settled.
“The best available evidence indicates if children become infected, they are far less likely to suffer severe symptoms,” the statement said. “At the same time, the harms attributed to closed schools on the social, emotional, and behavioral health, economic well-being, and academic achievement of children, in both the short- and long-term, are well-known and significant.”
While children infected by the virus are at low risk of becoming severely ill or dying, how often they become infected and how efficiently they spread the virus to others is not definitively known. Children in middle and high schools may also be at much higher risk of both than those under 10, according to some recent studies.
Beyond the statement, the package included decision tools and checklists for parents, guidance on mitigation measures for schools to take and other information that some epidemiologists described as helpful.
The new materials are meant to supplement guidance the C.D.C. previously issued on when and how to reopen schools, with recommendations such as keeping desks six feet apart and keeping children in one classroom all day instead of allowing them to move around.
Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, reacted to the release on Friday during an event with The Washington Post.
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