A group of medical researchers whose work was cited by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has accused the agency of ignoring favorable data on coronavirus in schools, issuing guidelines that have “hamstrung” school reopenings.
The researchers wrote that data on coronavirus spread in schools, including in their own studies and in broader medical literature, indicate that schools can safely reopen for full time in-person learning, in an op-ed in USA Today on Monday. The group criticized the CDC for issuing guidance that hinders the reopening of schools.
“Although the guidance cites the work performed across Wisconsin districts performed by our group,” the researchers wrote, the CDC guidance does not “take that data and new analyses from that dataset into account.”
The study of school districts in Wood County, Wis., is available on the CDC website. While coronavirus positivity rates exceeded 40 percent in Wood County during the time of the study, zero staff members and just seven out of 4,876 students contracted the illness at school. This was despite “variable” social distancing between students.
One of the authors of the Wood County study, Dr. Tracy Beth Hoeg, co-authored the USA Today op-ed.
“The recent school reopening guidance released by the [CDC] is an example of fears influencing and resulting in misinterpretation of science and harmful policy,” the authors state. Children wearing masks may also be distanced at between three to six feet, instead of at least six feet as currently recommended by the CDC.
The op-ed authors also noted that “despite fear-mongering regarding variants in the U.S., we have not seen evidence that variants are spreading through in-person schools.”
Local governments across the U.S. have struggled to return students to classrooms after districts moved to remote learning in March 2020, at the onset of the pandemic. San Francisco has sued its school district, which has not opened for in-person learning in a year, while the head of the Los Angeles teachers union criticized California’s school reopening plan as “propagating structural racism.”
Pandemic school closures have been blamed for taking a toll on students’ well-being, with opportunities to socialize and interact with peers severely limited.