US health agency urges schools to reopen to students


US health agency urges schools to reopen to students

Friday, July 24, 2020

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WASHINGTON, United States (AFP) — The top US health body has issued new guidelines on the reopening of schools, clearly weighting its recommendations in favour of having students return to their classrooms in fall.

The updated advice from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) was posted Thursday night, and came a few weeks after President Donald Trump asked the agency to change course.

"We owe it to our nation's children to take personal responsibility to do everything we can to lower the levels of COVID-19, so they can go back to school safely," CDC chief Robert Redfield said today.

With the virus still rampant in many parts of the country, a number of cities including Houston and Los Angeles have already announced that schools will reopen virtually.

Others like New York, where the epidemic has receded, are opting for a hybrid model.

Although the CDC says schools must take into consideration local virus transmission rates, it offers no precise guidance on what the cut-off threshold should be.

Asked by a reporter how he would define a hotspot that should not yet reopen its schools, Redfield said: "Right now we're looking where the percent positivity rate within the community is greater than five percent."

Positivity refers to the rate of coronavirus tests that come back positive, and the World Health Organization (WHO) considers a rate of above five percent to indicate rampant community spread.

Officials will be looking at data on the county level, but as a gauge, only 17 states plus the US capital currently fulfill this requirement on a statewide basis.

Redfield however stressed it was "just guidance to consider, to be more cautious."

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