During the COVID-19 epidemic, school districts have needed to balance the potential risk of COVID-19 transmission and the educational needs of children K-12, who learn best in the classroom. VDH believes decisions on whether to teach children in-person or virtually are best made locally. Local school administrators best know the needs of their community and their schools’ capacity to carry out virtual education or manage the additional space and equipment necessary for in-person classes. VDH recommends schools use the CDC Indicators of Community Transmission together with the Interim Guidance for K-12 School Reopening document to inform decisions about school operations with regard to COVID-19.
CDC Core Indicators:
The metrics below are based on the CDC Operational Strategy for K12 Schools-Indicators of Community Transmission. Given the likely association between levels of community transmission of SARS-CoV-2 and risk of SARS-CoV-2 exposure in schools, a first step in determining when and how it is safe to reopen involves assessing the level of community transmission. School administrators, working with local public health officials, should also review the level of impact within a school to help inform decisions.
CDC recommends the use of two measures of community burden to determine the level of risk of transmission: total number of new cases per 100,000 persons in the past 7 days; and percentage of nucleic acid amplification tests (NAATs), including RT-PCR tests that are positive during the last 7 days. The two measures of community burden should be used to assess the incidence and spread of SARS-CoV-2 in the surrounding community (e.g., county) and not in the schools themselves. If the two indicators suggest different levels, the actions corresponding to the higher threshold should be chosen. The transmission level for any given location will change over time and should be reassessed weekly for situational awareness and to continuously inform planning.
Schools can reduce the risk of outbreaks by using mitigation strategies.
Key mitigation strategies schools should implement are:
- Consistent and correct use of masks
- Social distancing to the extent possible
- Hand hygiene and respiratory etiquette
- Cleaning and disinfection
- Contact tracing in collaboration with local health department
The CDC has developed a checklist to help schools evaluate their ability to implement these mitigation measures.