Understanding how the CDC’s changed COVID guidelines could impact the start of school in the Carolinas

The CDC dropped several COVID-related recommendations on Thursday.
We are still waiting to hear how North and South Carolina public schools will respond to these CDC recommendations.
Published: Aug. 12, 2022 at 5:50 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - It’s back to school for some South Carolina schools on Monday, and many students in North Carolina head back at the end of the month.

Changing guidelines from the CDC could impact those students as they return to the classroom.

The CDC announced Thursday that it is dropping several recommendations, including social distancing and quarantining.

It also dropped the recommendation for cohorting, where students avoided mixing with students in different classes, as well as the test-to-stay policy that requires students to regularly test negative to stay in class after being exposed to a close-contact with COVID.

According to the CDC, “people who were exposed to COVID-19 should follow recommendations to wear a well-fitting mask and get tested. K-12 school and ECE administrators can decide how to manage exposures based on the local context and benefits of preserving access to in-person learning.”

“We’re still seeing kids with COVID right, so a lot of the conversation is going towards prevention,” Dr. Maureen Choi, a pediatrician with Novant Health, said.

Dr. Choi said it’s an appropriate time for the CDC to take these steps because the vaccine is available for all children six months of age and older.

She does though still think it’s a good idea for students to mask up.

“To minimize disruption to school I recommend that every child wear a mask who can,” she said.

She also suggests common sense precautions you would take to protect yourself against any virus.

“Good hand washing, making sure they’re not eating or drinking after somebody, trying to distance themselves from sick kids if possible,” she said. “Parents should participate by keeping their children home if they’re sick.”

Parents like Meilani Diaz are worried other parents won’t take it as seriously.

Her son Cash, a rising first-grader, has asthma.

“It’s makes me a little nervous,” Diaz said. “I know people who have to go to work and feel like they need to send their kids to go to work. It’s not good.”

Other parents like Karey Tom, who has a daughter in high school, see this as a step in the right direction.

“I think it’s exciting that we’re moving forward and we’re getting through this very challenging virus,” Tom said.

WBTV reached out to the state health departments in North and South Carolina.

A spokesperson for SCDHEC told us they are in the process of updating their guidelines.

A spokesperson for NCDHHS told WBTV in a statement:

“The changes that CDC announced yesterday for schools are consistent with guidance NCDHHS has already been providing schools at https://covid19.ncdhhs.gov/media/164/download. This includes that individual contact tracing and exclusion from school after an identified exposure is no longer recommended statewide in K-12 schools. Other highlights of policies for schools that NCDHHS shared earlier this summer include:

  • It is no longer recommended that schools require staff to report their vaccination status and participate ina screening program, if they are unvaccinated
  • Masks are recommended at high CDC COVID-19 community levels
  • It is no longer recommended that schools implement physically distancing strategies (such as keeping students 3ft or 6ft apart)
  • Universal contact tracing is not recommended
  • Testing, Ventilation and Cleaning remain important layers of protection.”

“It did not really change our protocols because we had not been contact tracing, which means we were not quarantining close contacts,” a spokesperson for Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools said. “We continue to have schools track positive cases to notify families and report potential clusters to the health department. The guidelines have been updated and we will continue to follow the CDC and NCDHHS guidelines and requirements.”

Related: Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools ends COVID-19 contact tracing, changes quarantine protocol

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