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From: Fauci, Anthony (NIH/NIAID) [E]} exe Sent: Saturday, February 20, 2021 2:34 PM To: Walensky, Rochelle (CDC/OD) Subject: FW: STAT: New CDC school opening guidelines fail to ‘follow the science’ Rochelle: You probably have already seen this. But just in case, you should be aware of it. Best, Tony Anthony S. Fauci, MD Director National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Building 31, Room 7A-03 31 Center Drive, MSC 2520 National Institutes of Health penen MD 20892-2520 rae t (30%) 496-4409 E-mail: The information in this e-mail and any of its attachments is confidential and may contain sensitive information. It should not be used by anyone who is not the original intended recipient. If you have received this e-mail in error please inform the sender and delete it from your mailbox or any other storage devices. The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) shall not accept liability for any statements made that are the sender's own and not expressly made on behalf of the NIAID by one of its representatives. From: Folkers, Greg (NIH/NIAID) [E] Sent: Saturday, February 20, 2021 1:19 PM Subject: STAT: New CDC school opening guidelines fail to ‘follow the science’ First Opinion New CDC school opening guidelines fail to ‘follow the science’ By Viadimir Kogan and Vinay Prasad Feb. 20, 2021 7A teacher instructs students with a camera projector from her desk at Freedom Preparatory Academy in Provo, Utah. George Frey/Getty Images President Biden vowed to “follow the science” in an effort to get kids back to school. But that’s not what the latest school opening guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention do. The two core pillars of the guidelines — that schools should decide whether to open based on community transmission and that students should strive to be spaced 6 feet apart — aren’t supported by science. While there are many prudent recommendations in the document, these two demands will keep schools closed much longer than necessary, harming kids. Should learning mode depend on community transmission levels? The new school opening guidelines advise schools to open or close (or operate in “hybrid” mode) based on a four-tier color-coded system. Each color is tied to the number of new Covid-19 cases during the previous week. The red, or most restrictive category, is more than 100 cases a week per 100,000 people. By this metric, more than 90% of the country is currently in the most restrictive tier, ruling out full-time, in-person learning for elementary-aged students and any sort of in-person school for older children without screening tests. Yet many schools in such communities already have in-person school — and have done so for months — without issue. Is 6-foot distancing really required? The insistence on 6 feet was controversial from the start. One of the early skeptics was physician Rochelle Walensky, who was recently appointed to lead the CDC. She advised her local school i last summer that “it is quite safe and much more practical to be at 3 feet” as long as everyone is masked. (Three feet of distancing is also recommended by the World Health Organization.) When asked to explain this about-face during a recent interview with CNN, Walensky argued that the larger distance in the CDC guidance was justified by new research published since last summer and the increase in case counts since then. The newest evidence actually seems to argue against requiring strict adherence to a 6-foot rule, however. First, it is increasingly clear that transmission of Covid-19 is not explained by the droplet mod — the idea that bigger drops of secretion fall in the first few feet around someone, as was thought whe the original social distancing guidelines developed. Second, a meta-analysis on Covid-19 and other closely related coronaviruses showed that the benefits of increasing the distance from 3 to 6 feet is marginal in contexts where the risk of infection is low, as would be the case in a classroom with universal masking. Going backward on reopening Rather than moving the ball forward on Biden’s goal of getting elementary and middle schools reopened as soon as possible, the new CDC guidelines will work to provide political cover for interest groups and districts that want to delay in-person school. They also come when many states were acting to loosen their own guidelines to encourage schools to reopen. Just days before the CDC announcement, the state of Massachusetts announced the elimination of school bus capacity limits as long as bus windows remain open at least 2 inches. Nevada, which already allowed closer spacing on school buses, also loosened its requirements further. But, the new CDC guidelines would thwart these pragmatic efforts. The conflicting CDC guidance only creates confusion, putting districts in the difficult position of deciding whether to follow state or federal recommendations.

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