Today, the CDC issued its COVID-19 prevention guidelines for K-12 schools ahead of the 2021-2022 academic year. The guidelines were released two weeks before some of South Carolina schools begin their fall semester, and as the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) is preparing its guidance for public schools across the state.
The CDC’s guidelines can be found here. They include:
- Schools should fully reopen for in-person education to the greatest extent possible
- Masks should be worn indoors by all individuals (age 2 and older) who are not fully vaccinated.
- Schools are recommended to allow for at least 3 feet of physical distance between students within classrooms.
- When it’s not possible to maintain a physical distance of at least 3 feet, such as when schools can’t fully re-open while maintaining these distances, it’s especially important to layer multiple other prevention strategies, such as indoor masking.
- Screening, ventilation, handwashing and respiratory etiquette, staying home when sick and getting tested remain important methods of preventing spread of the virus.
- Students, teachers, and staff should stay home when they have signs of any infectious illness and visit their healthcare provider for testing and care.
- Contact tracing, along with isolation and quarantine when indicated by CDC guidelines, remains important for stopping the spread of the disease.
- Schools should encourage vaccinations for those eligible (age 12 and older).
- Layered prevention strategies (e.g., using multiple prevention strategies together consistently) are emphasized and levels of them may be based on multiple factors.
DHEC is currently reviewing the guidelines and will use them to draft the agency’s guidance for South Carolina’s schools. DHEC continues to work closely with the South Carolina Department of Education and will share the school guidelines once complete in the coming weeks.
“Students deserve the opportunity to learn in a safe environment, and South Carolina’s teachers, parents, school administrators and other employees should also be able to work in Palmetto State schools without the fear of getting sick,” said Dr. Brannon Traxler, DHEC Public Health Director. “COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective and will help provide that healthy environment in our schools.”