A significant number of states will reopen their colleges and universities by the fall, while K-12 schools will follow suit on a jurisdiction by jurisdiction basis, the nation’s top disease official told lawmakers this week.
The feds’ one-size-fits-all approach will not work for the vast and diverse United States, officials argue while testifying before the House Energy and Commerce Committee on Tuesday.
State and local officials will have to craft a plan to reopen schools and other learning institutions to account for the varying dynamics across the country, officials testified.
U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Robert Redfield told lawmakers:
It is my expectation that many jurisdictions will be opening schools. We are going to try to give guidance to help them do it safely. I think we’re going to see progressive jurisdictions move to open schools in the fall.
Asked whether kids and young adults would be able to return to class in August, Dr. Redfield told the House panel Tuesday:
I anticipate that the states will begin to open up higher education and K-12. It is going to be based on jurisdiction to jurisdiction decisions. CDC will be issuing additional guidance on this topic in the days ahead as we continue to try to work and give guide … [on] how to open them up safely.
Reopening and achieving some semblance of normalcy will require vigilance, Redfield said, echoing Dr. Anthony Fauci, a member of the White House Coronavirus Task Force.
In early June, Fauci, the top U.S. infectious disease expert who testified alongside the CDC director this week, told CNN that keeping schools in lockdown during the upcoming fall over safety concerns might be “a bit of a reach.”
The doctor acknowledged that children tend to experience milder to no symptoms when they contract COVID-19, the coronavirus disease. It is not yet clear whether children get infected as frequently as adults.
“By the time we get to the fall, we will have this under control enough that it certainly will not be the way it is now where people are shutting schools,” Fauci predicted Tuesday.
Before reopening, institutions of learning should monitor infections and related consequences, namely the number of hospitalizations, the mortality rate, and the economy.
The CDC chief encouraged social distancing, face coverings, and regular hand washing as effective mitigation strategies to combat the spread of COVID-19, the disease linked to the novel coronavirus, telling lawmakers:
It is my expectation that many jurisdictions will be opening schools. We are going to try to give guidance to help them do it safely. … I think we’re going to see progressive jurisdictions move to open schools in the fall.
Dr. Fauci indicated reopening schools and other education centers across America would require a patchwork approach, rather than one-size-fits-all.
Fauci, who also serves as the director of the National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) National Institute for Infectious Disease (NIAID), testified:
When you are asking about schools, you have to say where you are talking about because we have different regions. … So some counties may have such a low level of infection that schools can open in a way that is exactly like normal. Others may be in a situation where it is in really bad [situan] where you want to close the school, but you might want to make some modifications, alterations of scheduling
Ultimately, reopening schools will be similar to reviving the economies across America — state and local leaders will have to make the decisions.
Dr. Fauci pointed out:
So it is up to the local officials to evaluate where you are in the particular region — the recommendations that we really very carefully put out about the guidance of opening schools so you don’t want to make one-size-fits-all for the United States. You want to tailor it to the degree of viral dynamics in the particular location that you are talking about.
In May, the CDC issued full interim guidance on how to safely reopen schools and other establishments
The agency said it would release additional and more detailed guidance soon.