CDC issues new guidelines for opening schools

Updated July 23, 2020



As families and policymakers make decisions about their children returning to school, it is important to consider the full spectrum of benefits and risks of both in-person and virtual learning options.  Parents are understandably concerned about the safety of their children at school in the we of COVID-19.  The best available evidence indicates if children become infected, they are far less likely to suffer severe symptoms.[1],[2],[3] Death rates among school-aged children are much lower than among adults.  At the same time, the harms attributed to closed schools on the social, emotional, and behavioral health, economic well-being, and academic achievement of children, in both the short- and long-term, are well-known and significant.  Further, the lack of in-person educational options disproportionately harms low-income and minority children and those living with disabilities.  These students are far less likely to have access to private instruction and care and far more likely to rely on key school-supported resources like food programs, special education services, counseling, and after-school programs to meet basic developmental needs. Aside from a child’s home, no other setting has more influence on a child’s health and well-being than their school.  The in-person school environment does the following:

  • provides educational instruction;

  • supports the development of social and emotional skills;

  • creates a safe environment for learning;

  • addresses nutritional needs; and

  • facilitates physical activity.

This paper discusses each of these critical functions, following a brief summary of current studies regarding COVID-19 and children. COVID-19 and Children The best available evidence indicates that COVID-19 poses relatively low risks to school-aged children.  Children appear to be at lower risk for contracting COVID-19 compared to adults.  To put this in perspective, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), as of July 17, 2020, the United States reported that children and adolescents under 18 years old account for under 7 percent of COVID-19 cases and less than 0.1 percent of COVID-19-related deaths.[5]  Although relatively rare, flu-related deaths in children occur every year. From 2004-2005 to 2018-2019, flu-related deaths in children reported to CDC during regular flu seasons ranged from 37 to 187 deaths.  During the H1N1pandemic (April 15, 2009 to October 2, 2010), 358 pediatric deaths were reported to CDC. So far in this pandemic, deaths of children are less than in each of the last five flu seasons, with only 64.