In a veritable milestone in the progress towards recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) released a bombshell update to the current guidelines surrounding the preventative precautions for the virus. According to the latest guidelines, children who come into direct contact with the coronavirus this school season with no longer be required to take a leave and quarantine at home.
The new COVID-19 guidelines, not specifically focused on school settings, are the most lax to date. Formerly, the CDC continued to attract controversy due to its harsh precautionary recommendations for young students, including a so-called ‘test to stay’ policy that required schoolchildren to get regular COVID tests in order to continue personal participation in the classroom. In fact, as recently as late-June this year, the CDC made a general recommendation of at least 5 days of quarantine at home after exposure to the virus (starting from day 0); the policy applied to kids and adults alike.
The latest policy change did not come completely unexpected, however. Many suspected the pandemic-control measures will be loosened, given that 95 % of the population is already inoculated against the virus in one form or another, according to Dr. Greta Massetti of the CDC. However, COVID-19 fatalities this summer were alarmingly higher than previous year amidst rising concerns over deadlier variants. Nonetheless, the suspected relaxation in regulations was confirmed by the CNN when it obtained an early draft of the changes in early August.
The new guidelines released Thursday completely remove the recommendation to quarantine under normal circumstances, including for vulnerable groups. It instead emphasises selective testing, mask-wearing, and other measures that previously went largely unnoticed, including ensuring better ventilation in high-risk in-door settings. Regular masks are still recommended at all times in school classrooms in around 40 % of the counties in the U.S., where rates of transmission are higher.
Students who catch the virus, or come into contact with someone who tested positive, are no longer required to quarantine at home. Instead, they would be recommended to join classes while wearing clean, ‘well-fitting’ masks for 10 days and maintaining an appropriate distance. The CDC fully recognises the toll of distant-education on young students, including learning problems and mental health issues. The new guidelines seek to deal with the continuing spread ‘safely with acceptable levels of risk’, according to Dr. Richard Besser of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.