U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

CDC considering color-coded categories for reopening schools

Feb. 12, 2021
The categories—full in-person, hybrid, reduced attendance and virtual-only—would be based on Covid-19 community transmission rates.

The Biden administration's guidelines for reopening schools is expected to include recommendations for phased reopening based on rates of community transmission of Covid-19, according to a draft internal summary by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

CBS News reports that the phased approach for reopening includes recommendations for types of instruction for K-12 schools, broken down into four color-coded "zones"—full in-person, hybrid, reduced attendance and virtual-only.

K-12 Schools are in the "Blue" zone if they have low community spread, and in the "Yellow" zone, with moderate transmission. Blue and Yellow Zones are recommended to allow for a reopening with full in-person learning, with as much social distancing as possible.

Schools in the "Orange" zone,  which are classified as having substantial transmission, are recommended to have hybrid learning or reduced attendance, with required social distancing.

"Red" zone schools are broken into two categories: Those that engage in regular screening testing of asymptomatic staff and students, and those that do not. "Red" zone schools that do not test should have hybrid learning or reduced attendance with mandatory physical distancing in elementary schools only; middle and high schools should be virtual-only.

Schools that conduct screening testing can have hybrid learning or reduced attendance for all elementary, middle, and high schools, with required social distancing, according to the draft summary of the guidelines.

For all levels of community transmission, universal mask-wearing and testing of symptomatic individuals and their close contacts is required.

The guidelines will also focus on several mitigation strategies: Universal masking; social distancing; hand-washing and respiratory etiquette; cleaning and ventilating facilities and contact tracing, isolation, and quarantine protocols. These practices are expected to be undertaken regardless of community transmission rates.

The CDC is also expected to assert that school instruction should be prioritized over extracurricular activities and sports, regardless of the degree of testing measures at schools. Color-coded "zones" will also be applied to these extracurriculars, according to the draft guidance.

Accommodations for "high risk" educators, including those with high-risk family members, could include additional virtual teaching, modifying job requirements, or adopting flexible scheduling. Ongoing virtual learning should be provided as an option for students with medical conditions, the draft guidance states.

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