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The CDC has loosened its guidelines for COVID and the question remains whether schools and day cares will do the same.
Science & Health

The CDC has loosened its guidelines for COVID and the question remains whether schools and day cares will do the same.

According to the CDC, parents can now begin treating COVID-19 like any other respiratory illness, four years after its initial outbreak caused school closures and disrupted child care.

Will schools and daycares consent to removing required quarantines and mask mandates?

Essentially, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advised that prior to Friday, all individuals in the US, regardless of age, were required to be isolated for a minimum of five days if they were diagnosed with COVID-19. After that, they were instructed to wear a mask for a designated amount of time.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has announced that in light of decreasing COVID-related fatalities and hospitalizations, children may return to school once their overall symptoms improve and they have been fever-free for 24 hours without the use of medication. The CDC is also urging students to wear a mask upon their return to school.

However, this modification may not impact the methods that schools use to advise parents in response to their children becoming ill. Schools and child care facilities have varying levels of compliance with CDC guidelines and may defer to local officials for guidance. Additionally, factors such as minimizing absences may also play a role in a state or district’s decisions.

The outcome may consist of a complicated variety of rules within states and districts, as well as workplaces, which can be bewildering for parents whose daily routines have been greatly disrupted by the virus.

Gloria Cunningham, a single mother in Boston, expressed her confusion about the current state of COVID-19. She stated, “I am unsure of what to make of COVID now. Is it still a formidable threat?”

According to Cunningham, who oversees a branch of a nationwide restaurant franchise, her employer mandates that she take a 10-day leave in case she contracts COVID-19. Additionally, the educational district where her son attends second grade continues to provide COVID testing kits to students to be utilized before resuming classes after prolonged absences.

FILE - Fifth graders wear face masks sit while social-distancing during a music class at Milton Elementary School in Rye, New York, May 18, 2021.

At Milton Elementary School in Rye, New York, fifth graders adhered to social distancing guidelines and wore face masks during a music class on May 18, 2021.

She suggested getting rid of any measures that make a distinction for COVID or following all safety protocols.

Many states have had different policies regarding COVID in the public education system. Out of 18 states, only 18 followed the CDC’s advice to wear masks in classrooms during the 2021-22 school year. While some states, such as Massachusetts, followed the CDC’s decision to lift mask mandates in February of 2022, California continued to require masks in schools.

In the world of child care, certain providers have historically implemented stricter testing and isolation procedures than what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has suggested. This may be due to efforts to prevent outbreaks and maintain a healthy staff, for the safety of both individuals and to ensure that the day care remains open.

Several states adopted less strict guidelines before the CDC. Recently, California and Oregon reversed COVID-19 isolation rules, prompting many districts to do the same.

California has implemented a policy to reduce school absences and combat a widespread issue of chronic absenteeism. They are encouraging students to attend school even if they are mildly ill and have declared that asymptomatic students who test positive for COVID-19 may still attend. This policy has been adopted by school systems in Los Angeles and San Diego, among others.

Most urban school systems in the United States have requested that parents keep their children at home for five days prior to returning to school. A few districts, like Boston and Atlanta, have also mandated that students wear masks and inform the school of any positive COVID-19 test results for an additional five days.

Several educators propose that the CDC’s previous mandate of five days of isolation was not strictly adhered to.

The rule in Burlington, Massachusetts, has been for students to remain at home for a duration of five days upon receiving a positive test result. However, Superintendent Eric Conti stated that the actual adopted approach is to simply acknowledge and handle the virus instead.

This is due to the fact that COVID is handled through self-care at home, relying on the individual’s honesty.

He stated through a text message that without testing in schools, it would be impossible to implement a five-day COVID policy.

FILE - Students line up to enter Christa McAuliffe School in Jersey City, N.J., April 29, 2021.

Students are queuing to go into Christa McAuliffe School in Jersey City, New Jersey on April 29, 2021.

Superintendent Lee Ann Wentzel informed that Ridley School District, located in the suburbs of Philadelphia, had already implemented a policy similar to the latest guidelines from the CDC. According to this policy, students who have tested positive for COVID must have an absence of fever, without the use of medication, for a minimum of 24 hours before they can return to school. Additionally, upon their return, they are required to wear masks for a period of five days. With the recent update from the CDC, Wentzel stated that the district is contemplating removing the mandate for mask-wearing.

The specific rules set by schools or day cares can have a significant impact on working parents who may have to take time off work if their child cannot attend school or childcare. In October 2023, there were simultaneous increases in COVID, respiratory syncytial virus, and influenza, causing 104,000 adults to miss work due to child care issues – the highest number in at least ten years. However, this number has since decreased, with only 41,000 adults reporting child care problems as the reason for missing work last month, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Last year, Melissa Colagrosso stated that her child care center in West Virginia removed specific COVID protocols. Currently, their guidelines for all illnesses are the same: a child needs to be symptom-free, including fever, for 24 hours before coming back to the center.

According to Colagrosso, the CEO of A Place To Grow Children’s Center in Oak Hill, COVID is being handled in the same way as the flu or hand, foot and mouth disease.

According to Colagrasso, parents are no longer testing their asymptomatic children for COVID unless they show symptoms, so she has not faced this dilemma.

However, some caregivers have concerns that the more lenient regulations could potentially increase the danger in their neighborhoods. Evelyn Alemán is in charge of a coalition of Latino and Indigenous parents in Los Angeles County. The parents she advocates for, many of whom suffer from ongoing health conditions and inadequate healthcare options, became anxious when California removed its isolation mandates in January.

She expressed concern about California officials not taking into account the repercussions for our families. It seems like they lack concern for our well-being and view us as dispensable.

There continue to be lingering effects of the pandemic, even as limitations are being eased. According to Wentzel, the superintendent of Ridley, a district in the Philadelphia area, students are becoming more withdrawn and finding it challenging to socialize in person with their peers. In addition, there has been a drastic decrease in the interest for school dances.

“Psychologically, they’re struggling,” stated Wentzel.