September 27, 2022

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is expected to relax COVID-19 recommendations in the coming days, starting with schools, as students return to the classroom.

CBS News obtained a copy of the CDC’s draft document outlining the rationale for the change. While not yet final, the changes could include de-emphasizing the “test to stay” strategy, in which students exposed to COVID-19 are regularly tested to stay in class. Schools will also be free to relax strict social distancing measures, which CDC guidance has already taken essentially gradually.

Revisions to simplify and streamline a broad set of other CDC guidelines for specific settings, including travel, health care facilities, and high-risk congregate settings such as nursing homes, are also expected to be released soon.

News of how the planned shift could affect the agency’s school leadership was first reported by CNN.

“This virus is going to be here with us for the next few days and we have to learn to live with it,” infectious disease expert Michael Osterholm told CBS News.

Michael Cornell, superintendent of the Hamburg Central School District in western New York, said his students should get back to normal.

“If the CDC is going to say we should go back to school relatively normally, with minimal restrictions, then count me in,” Cornell told CBS News. “We have to focus on making sure our kids experience joy, value and relationships in school, because all of those things have been taken away from them for two and a half years.”

The proposed changes raise some concerns, as fewer than half of school-aged children are fully vaccinated and the majority of Americans live in communities with high rates of COVID-19.

Among other proposed changes in the draft document is that those exposed to COVID-19 who are not fully vaccinated will no longer need to be quarantined, instead being covered for 10 days and tested five days after exposure. In the draft, the CDC notes the large percentage of the population with antibodies to COVID-19, as well as the desire to limit the social and economic impact, as its rationale for lifting quarantine recommendations.

In addition, the CDC will no longer require contact tracing after known exposures, except in health care settings or high-risk concentrations, such as long-term care facilities and homeless shelters, the draft states.

Osterholm, meanwhile, said the virus is also still evolving.

“As this virus continues to change over time, we may revise these guidelines again,” he said.

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